Centric Public Report 2020
Supply Chain Solutions
With the Supply Chain Solutions division, Centric offers innovative solutions and services that enable companies in the retail, logistics/wholesale and construction sectors to optimise their processes. The focus is mainly on in-shop automation (including continuity and IMAC services to the shop) and warehouse automation. A key feature of our portfolio is that all our solutions and services are developed with a view to efficiency and transparency in the supply chain. Supply Chain Solutions is mainly active in the Benelux and in Scandinavia, and we support customers in other countries too through our partner network.
Although in 2020 the coronavirus crisis had a major impact on the markets in which Centric Supply Chain Solutions is active, we prevailed and made a positive contribution to the result all the same.
We benefited, for example, from the fact that consumers were ordering more online during the pandemic and expected a consistent shopping experience – an expectation that Centric’s Omnichannel Retail Suite payment platform was made to meet. Another plus point was that the services provided to food retailers could, for the most part, continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in online sales also gave rise to strong growth in our warehouse management activities. Centric’s Locus WMS warehouse management system provides businesses with all the functionality they need to efficiently and effectively set up and run the e-commerce order picking process.
We closed 2020 with several new customer contracts, like with Apoteket in Sweden and Amazing Oriental, Kees Smit and NS Retail in the Netherlands.
Automatic product recognition To successfully develop innovative solutions, we continuously monitor technology trends and developments in the market. With Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, we can offer our customers interesting use cases, from fraud prevention to supporting completely checkout-free shops.
In 2020, at one supermarket we ran a Proof of Concept for AI product recognition using camera images. With the Centric app, the customer scans the products and this initiates the underlying business logic needed to prepare the receipt and pay for the purchases. This is supported as a web service from Centric’s Omnichannel Retail Suite. With the correct prices displayed on the customer’s own phone and the ability to pay using an online payment app like Tikkie, the customer can skip the checkout line completely. Collaboration with our colleagues in Romania and Lithuania Our Dutch teams work together with their colleagues from Centric Romania, where a team of 35 developers and architects is part of our Retail Centre of Expertise. Also, in Lithuania we work together with data analysts on innovative solutions for retailers. Smart route This year, we also conducted a successful Proof of Concept to intelligently guide consumers through a shop based on a smartphone and shopping list. With augmented reality (AR), the smartest route through a shop is projected on a screen and additional shop information is displayed.
This all goes to show that AR is increasingly becoming a great way to take the shopping experience – both physical and virtual – to a higher level. For more information, watch the Centric webinar: The next IT wave in retail.
Apoteket This year we started onboarding Apoteket, the largest chemist and pharmacy chain in Sweden. In this project, interfaces were established with systems that contain highly sensitive customer data. Accordingly, numerous provisions in the area of security were made. Apoteket migrated to the Omnichannel Retail Suite in an as-is situation. With this payment platform, the chain can further enhance the customer experience, by introducing self-service concepts for example.
Action In several European countries where the Action discount-store chain is expanding rapidly with new outlets, in 2020 we were confronted with stores closing their doors as a result of the coronavirus measures. Outside of these restrictions, our services to Action continued unabated and, as a result, Action was able to open new stores last year in the Benelux, France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland. As the main contractor, Centric is responsible for both the roll-out and management. To deliver these services, we work together with local service providers in the retail market. We are proud that, together with these parties, we are able to help the chain make its ambitious growth plans beyond the Dutch borders a reality.
Lockdown Due to the lockdowns, many of our customers were forced to cancel or postpone investments. This was the case for A.S. Watson group, to which the retail chains Kruidvat, ICI Paris, Trekpleister and Prijsmepper all belong. The plan was that by 2020, all 1,700 stores in Belgium and the Netherlands would be equipped with new back-office hardware; however, because of the pandemic the project was only started after the summer. In close collaboration with the customer team, Centric provided all 1,700 stores with the new equipment in two months’ time – a roll-out record in the Benelux.
This year we migrated all our transport solutions to Microsoft .NET and SQL Server. Most customers have now been migrated to these modern environments.
Given that an increasing share of our customers want to use our service offering from the Microsoft Azure cloud in the future, this technology switch is very important. There are many reasons for wanting to switch to the cloud, including the high availability, security, mobile device management, seamless integration with Microsoft 365 products, and tools like Power BI, all aspects that have a strong bearing on the continuity of our customers’ IT.
Centric Logistic Data Exchange Platform Not only did the transport sector suffer from the coronavirus outbreak, Brexit also had a major impact on the sector. What is more, there is still enormous pressure on the transport sector, the margins are very thin, and standardisation and the automated exchange of data are becoming increasingly important. We have been responding to these trends by further developing Centric Logistic Data Exchange, our solution for seamlessly connecting the various ERPs, WMSs and TMSs of third-party transport platforms.
The Logistic Data Exchange platform is part of the Centric Data Exchange platform, which is also used by local government organisations.
Standard interfaces By developing standard interfaces for the Omnichannel Retail Suite, we can easily connect customers without this requiring costly investments. In 2020, we linked Tailormade (Ghent), LeGrand (Boxtel – in combination with Locus WMS) and Geevers (Veldhoven) to the platform in this way.
Locus WMS’ range of features has been proving its worth to countless customers for many years now. Full digital insight into all distribution centre processes, anytime high-precision goods tracking, and task-based management of people or mechanisation all help boost efficiency and accuracy. Consumer behaviour has changed due to COVID-19. This opened up opportunities for Locus WMS when it comes to control, mechanisation and robotisation. Last year, we welcomed COHE and DSG as new customers and made existing customers, like the Belgian company Varo, future-ready.
Varo Varo is a specialist with over 60 years’ experience in the worldwide distribution of DIY tools and equipment. The company, based in De Lier in Belgium, was experiencing a growth in sales via the e-commerce channel and asked Centric to support this. Now, after an update of Locus WMS, Varo is ready for the sale of its products through e-commerce. With the update, Varo can combine online orders with regular orders, making the business fully future-proof.
Outlook for 2021
Supply Chain Solutions stepped into 2021 with a well-filled order book.
It is important this year that we continue to closely tailor our services to customer demand. Various programmes were launched in 2020 and we will develop these further in 2021. These programmes will bring our delivery capacity into line with market demands. One example is the Astea project for the uniform design of collaboration within the division.
Further intensification of international collaboration within this division is one of the keys to us achieving our objectives. We want to have a unified approach to service provision in the various countries to increase predictability and guarantee the ongoing use of best practices.
Within our segments, we see an increasing demand for a commercial payment model for the Omnichannel Retail Suite, in connection with, among other things, flexibility and scalability. Preference is given to a commercial model based on a subscription fee rather than upfront investment. In 2021, we will also investigate the possibilities in this area and we will start with a Proof of Concept.
A number of major customer roll-outs are planned in 2021, including Carrefour (Belgium), COOP (Netherlands) and Apoteket (Sweden). In tandem with these roll-outs, we are working on innovations that will secure our position in the longer term. An example of this is facilitating access to third parties who build consumer apps for retail.