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A Shoemaker Gives Its Point-of-Sale Process the Boot

Think you've got a point-of-sales (POS) challenge? Try this one on for size: Iron Age Corp. sells $100 million worth of safety shoes each year. Its customers -- factory and construction workers -- need footwear that's approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And if orders are delayed, customers are tempted to buy their steel-toe shoes on eBay instead.

Complicating Iron Age's record-keeping, customers often don't pay out of pocket; Iron Age must bill purchasers' companies. And here's the kicker: The footwear is often delivered to job sites via trucks that crisscross the country.

"We have an extraordinarily complex business model," says Drew Farris, VP and CIO of the 188-year-old company, which has 100 mobile "stores" -- trucks with traveling sales teams.

Before Farris arrived, back orders piled up for months and accounting had to manually reconcile every order received. "There was no operational integrity," he says.

So Farris dumped three old enterprise resource planning systems and switched to Oracle. But for a POS system, Farris had to customize. "It's not something we found in any off-the-shelf box, and customization like this is contrary to just about everything I believe in,'' he says.

But Farris does believe in the company's new Web-based application, which is sophisticated enough to replenish stock and ship inventory directly to customers yet simple enough for mobile salespeople, who use laptops and signature-capturing technology for transactions. With the old POS, updating the price on a single style cost "in excess of $10,000 due to all the manual work across disparate data sources," Farris says. "Now it costs us pennies."

Problem solved.

Ellen O'Brien, a former senior editor at CIO Decisions, is now a senior editor at Storage magazine. Write to her at

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