Business challenge

Without the ability to adapt quickly to changing fashion trends, major shoe retailer HR Group risked carrying unsold and discounted stock. How could HR Group spot—or even predict—shifting tastes?

Transformation

HR Group migrated to SAP HANA on IBM® Power Systems™ for SAP Business Warehouse, taking advantage of the latest IBM POWER8® technology and centralized IBM Storwize® V5000 storage.

Results

Near-instant

insight into market trends to respond fast to shifting demand

60%

faster business processes with half the processor cores

Optimizes

SAP system landscape to reduce costs

Business challenge story

Challenge in detail

To protect their margins, fashion retailers must react rapidly to an everchanging market. Allocating the optimal assortment of products to each branch is an effective way to maximize revenues and avoid the cost of unsold stock— but how could HR Group identify and deliver the right mix to each store in a timely manner?


Quick insights needed to keep up with fashion trends

Trends in fashion change rapidly and it is crucial for retailers to respond fast to shifting market demands. As the industry faces shrinking profit margins, it becomes particularly important to be able to allocate the right products in the right sizes to the right branches at the right time, to help cut costs, reduce unsold and discounted stock, and maximize potential revenue.

“SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems reduced complexity and increased energy efficiency in our data center.”

—Matthias Schäfer, Head of Application Development, HR Group

Matthias Schäfer, Head of Application Development at HR Group, says, “We noticed that the business is getting faster and faster in terms of customer response, distribution and the whims of fashion. To sell our stock across all our branches at the best possible prices, we needed instant insights into customer behavior. Our regional sales managers can only effectively plan campaigns when they have access to up-to -the second sales figures. Using reliable facts enables them to adapt the product range in our branches to match customers’ tastes.”

The company supplies some 2,500 locations with about 4,000 different articles in various sizes. Previously, HR Group based its distribution and sales planning on product categories, not actual sales of individual items at each branch. This could lead to situations where one branch had sold out while another had a surplus of particular products.

Matthias Schäfer explains, “All fashion retailers are under a lot of pressure right now. Tight profit margins mean that even small optimizations of our planning and supply processes can make the difference between profit and loss.”

“Having all of our SAP applications on the single, highly reliable IBM Power Systems server platform helps us standardize systems management and increase productivity within the IT team.”

—Manfred Gries, Team Leader Data Center Operations, HR Group

Transformation story

Solution delivery

HR Group migrated to SAP HANA on IBM® Power Systems™ for SAP Business Warehouse, taking advantage of the latest IBM POWER8® technology and centralized IBM Storwize® V5000 storage.


Deploying SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems

To react faster to sales patterns, HR Group worked closely with IBM and IBM® Business Partner® FRITZ & MACZIOL to deploy SAP HANA for one of its SAP Business Warehouse applications. The company connected its existing systems to SAP HANA using the SAP Landscape Transformation Replication Server software. HR Group also linked point-of-sales devices in its 750 branches to SAP HANA using SAP Point-of-Sale Data Management.

Matthias Schäfer says, “By combining SAP HANA with our points of sale, we can instantly analyze sales information from 750 branches. On top of that, we use SAP POS Loss Prevention Analytics for Retail to monitor our transactions and flag up fraud and other suspicious activity as quickly as possible.”

After the initial implementation of SAP HANA on x86 servers, HR Group decided to move to SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems™. With core SAP solutions already running on the IBM Power Systems platform, the move would simplify its IT environment and streamline operations and management processes. Today, the company operates a homogenous SAP solution landscape based on IBM POWER8® technology.

Manfred Gries, Team Leader Data Center Operations at HR Group, elaborates, “When SAP HANA became available on IBM Power Systems, we immediately discussed this with IBM and our trusted partner FRITZ & MACZIOL, because we were keen to migrate to the latest POWER8 servers to streamline our SAP application operations processes and retire the isolated x86 systems in our SAP environment that only increased the management workload. Having all of our SAP applications on a single, highly reliable server platform helps us standardize systems management and increase productivity within the IT team.”

The company runs its mission-critical SAP ERP applications on application servers in fully virtualized environments with IBM PowerVM® and IBM AIX® on three IBM Power® System S824 servers.

HR Group, IBM and FRITZ & MACZIOL set up one IBM Power System S822L with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to run the production SAP HANA database. The test and development instance of SAP HANA runs with IBM PowerVM virtualization on an IBM Power System S824 server, also with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

HR Group uses a central, fully redundant storage solution based on two IBM Storwize® V5000 systems, built with IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ software, to provide data storage for all SAP applications. Using IBM Easy Tier® technology, the company ensures that the most frequently used data is automatically being moved to ultra-fast flash storage.

For reliable backup of its SAP ERP application data and the SAP HANA database, HR Group relies on IBM Spectrum Protect™ for Enterprise Resource Planning Data Protection for SAP HANA.

Results story

Benefits in detail

  • Ensures lightning-fast data analytics, enabling near-instant insight into market trends.
  • Reduces the risk of carrying unfashionable lines.
  • Simplifies the SAP solution landscape and cuts admin costs.

Direct cost savings

Running SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems allowed HR Group to simplify and streamline its IT environment. As a result, the company currently saves EUR4,000 per month in hardware leasing costs.

Manfred Gries says, “The stability and flexibility of IBM Power Systems ensures that we can run our SAP applications, including SAP HANA, reliably. The advanced virtualization technology gives us the opportunity to dynamically optimize the resource utilization across our SAP application landscape. In contrast to dedicated SAP HANA appliances, we expect SAP HANA on POWER to seamlessly integrate into our virtualized system environment, as we already demonstrated with our test system.”

Furthermore, the virtualized storage solution increases the performance of the entire SAP system landscape by seamlessly moving data to the most appropriate storage system.

Using SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems allowed HR Group to improve planning and distribution substantially. Matthias Schäfer says, “SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems enables HR Group to run complex planning analytics much faster than before. Not only can we run existing analytics more quickly, we are also able to complete more granular planning, so we can now stock the right products at the right branches more reliably than before.”

The company also introduced SAP BusinessObjects Mobile to ensure its sales staff can use the real-time figures more efficiently without relying on a desktop computer or laptop. Matthias Schäfer adds, “With rapid access to up-to-the-minute sales figures on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in combination with the capability to analyze this data flexibly without delays, our regional sales managers can spot market trends faster, helping them to redistribute stock quicker and optimize our overall sales performance.”

HR Group leverages the user interface technology UI development toolkit for HTML5 (SAPUI5) to create mobile applications rapidly and easily.

Manfred Gries explains, “To accelerate business processes and improve accuracy, we wanted to make more and more features available on mobile devices. For example, we used SAPUI5 to create an application for iPads that staff in our branches can use to quickly report when the warehouse dispatches a shoe in the wrong size, for example. In the past, small errors such as this added up, and were only identified when we checked our inventory. Giving staff an easy and quick way to respond to these situations helps us to keep our inventory figures up-to-date, so that they match the actual inventories in our branches. Access to real-time inventory data is crucial for managing additional deliveries throughout the day and ensuring a smooth omni-channel experience. This helps us optimize service to the branches and, ultimately, customers.”

Moving forward, HR Group plans to connect its SAP HANA platform to its IBM WebSphere® Commerce online shop to show users real-time stock information for all items and branches.

Matthias Schäfer concludes, “Using SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems reduced the complexity of our IT environment and boosts energy efficiency in our data center—we achieve the same performance as before with half the processor cores, thanks to the powerful IBM POWER8 technology. Some operations are even more than 60 percent faster on IBM POWER8. As our next step, we will roll out SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems to our wholesale operation to achieve similar improvements as we have already realized for our own branches.”

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About HR Group

Major footwear retailer HR Group, headquartered in Osnabrück, Germany, sells through 2,500 locations, including 750 of its own branches, in 20 countries. Employing 5,000 people, the company sells 49 million items a year and achieves sales of EUR600 million.