Laura Ashley Japan Speeds Customer Service Using ILOG Software

28 January 2009

ILOG, an IBM company, and WINWORKS, a leading Japanese independent software vendor (ISV), today announced that fashion and home goods retailer Laura Ashley Japan is using new software that will help store managers to more efficiently administer their staff and improve customer service. This will result in lower labor costs while increasing sales opportunities.

The combination of IBM ILOG CPLEX and WINWORKS One workforce scheduling software will match available human resources to business needs, providing each store manager with the best staffing solutions and allowing them to make smarter decisions based upon peak sales times. The software can also increase sales opportunities by automatically generating optimized work schedules that meet complex conditions, such as company rules and regulations, individual employment contracts, employee skills and vacation requests.

WINWORKS One targets distribution and retail markets and helps create work schedules that meet the specific conditions and needs of each site or store. WINWORKS One was selected by Laura Ashley Japan to reduce the workload of store managers as well as increase the time available to service customers and provide training. Laura Ashley’s sales sites have a customized personnel management structure that allows both full-time and part-time employees and temporary staff with different skill levels and experience to work together. This personnel structure fits within a monthly “time budget” for each store, which is the maximum number of scheduled work hours that the company has determined each store should meet.

Another challenge facing Laura Ashley Home stores is unique due to the company’s specialization in home furnishings. Because of the large size of each store, management faces numerous constraints Including the large number of employees needed to staff the stores, and other specific requirements such as having on-site sales staff readily available who are able to provide interior design services to customers. These factors make it very difficult and time consuming for store managers to prepare work schedules manually.

After using the CPLEX-based scheduling tool, the staff of one of the leading Laura Ashley Home stores were deemed to be 10 percent more efficient as a result of improved service time to customers and better management of the store. Laura Ashley Japan says that the more time staff spends interacting with their customers, the more positive the impact on revenue, and therefore sought to increase the staff’s time available to interact with customers.

An additional result of implementing the software was the store manager dramatically reduced the time spent on building the roster, from eight to two hours. This provided a time allowance to increase the customer interactions, and establish staff training sessions.

“We acknowledge the importance of designing efficient work schedules for our operations in order to provide superior working conditions to motivate our staff, as well as increase sales opportunities by minimizing unproductive time not used to serve customers,” said Hideaki Takano, director of administrative headquarters for Laura Ashley Japan. “Increasing sales opportunities means increasing time spent servicing our customers. As a result of introducing WINWORKS One at our Laura Ashley Home store at AEON Mall Chiba New Town, we saw a dramatic reduction in the time spent preparing work schedules and a groundbreaking increase in customer service time.”

Due to the success of implementation, Laura Ashley is extending the usage of IBM ILOG CPLEX and WINWORKS One to more than 20 major retail stores in the Kanto, Kansai, Tohoku, Shikoku and Kyushu areas to improve its sales.

More than 1,000 commercial customers, including 160 members of the Global 500, use ILOG optimization tools and engines to solve the world’s most challenging planning and scheduling problems. These customers include APL, BNSF, JR East, Logistics, Maersk, Schneider, SNCF, United Airlines and UPS in transportation and logistics; and Airbus, Coors, Dell, Hansol Paper, Michelin, Mitsubishi Chemicals, Nippon Steel, Nissan, Porsche, Saint Gobain, Thyssen Krupp, and Toyota in manufacturing. ILOG optimization products are also used by a majority of leading Supply Chain Management software vendors, including i2, Infor, Manhattan Associates, JDA, Oracle, Red Prairie and SAP, as well as in research programs at over 1,000 universities around the world, making the products the “gold standard” for performance and solution quality in the Operations Research community. ILOG’s Optimization Product Suite includes IBM ILOG CPLEX, IBM ILOG CP, IBM ILOG OPL Studio and IBM ILOG ODM.

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