Farner-Bocken

Case Study Summary

Challenge
Customers like restaurants, schools, and convenience stores wanted self-service and faster access to information.

The Solution
Secure B2B Web site that allows customers to log in, and access their accounts.

Value
Farner-Bocken, a family owned wholesale distribution company, used m-Power to bring customer information securely to the Web under budget and ahead of schedule.


Case Study: Farner-Bocken

The Farner-Bocken Company is a wholesale distributor of convenience store merchandise. The family-owned company serves midwestern restaurants, schools, and convenience stores with over 12,000 products, ranging from fresh produce to cigarettes and snack foods. The impetus to Web-enable their customer service division came from the customers themselves, who wanted a self-serve environment and faster access to information. In response, Farner-Bocken deployed its business-to-business Web site ahead of schedule and under budget, extending their data to the Web quickly and easily. Even more remarkable, they built the solution with their existing skill set by using m-Power.

Essential to retail merchandise distribution management is the maintenance of constantly changing suggested retail prices (SRPs). Any change in product cost or desired profit margin must be reflected in the product's SRP as quickly as possible. Farner-Bocken employed two full-time people to work with the store managers to maintain accurate and current SRPs of all products.

The Challenge

As the convenience store industry evolved and broadened its product line, manual maintenance of this much information became unwieldy. Store managers wanted to avoid delays in product pricing, and requested instant access to pricing data and sales figures. Farner-Bocken's IT manager, John Perrin, began exploring different opportunities to Web-enable these processes, including hire Java programmers and training existing staff. Perrin soon discovered that the ideal solution with the least risk was already in use at Farner-Bocken:

"We have owned [m-Power] for a number of years, and it was well-positioned within our company. We developed many of our business applications with it very cost-effectively, such as reports, drilldowns, and maintenance applications. Our end users were already using it to run reports and maintain files. Then along came mrc's Web development capabilities, and it made perfect sense for us to try them."

The Solution

Perrin and two project leaders began developing Web applications right away. Their familiarity with m-Power and the customers' business needs made it very easy for them to build Java applications, HTML pages, and Web-based reports right away, without any manual programming. Adds Perrin, "The beauty of building these applications with [m-Power] is that I could use my strongest skills - knowledge of our core business and of the iSeries - to develop these Web applications, without learning the programming languages that they were built in."

Farner-Bocken's e-business solution was quickly ready for customer use. The Web applications access live data and provide store managers with instant access to their mission-critical information. Customers can now maintain their own pricing, adjusting prices to maximize revenue. They also have immediate access to sales figures and reports.

The Value

The results of their e-business solution have greatly transformed the way Farner-Bocken communicates with and serves its customers. Customer service representatives no longer run and mail hundreds of reports every day. Convenience stores now access their mission-critical information instantly. The IS Department spends its valuable time resolving business issues - not learning new programming languages. Not to mention that the e-business solution was deployed well within the desired period. Perrin explains, "In three weeks I created all the e-business applications I needed to launch our site. Through traditional methods, they'd have taken six to eight months."

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