Retailer H&M has embarked on a two-year roll-out of an employee-scheduling system designed to improve its use of staff resources and maximise time spent by staff on the shop floor.
The Swedish clothing company will implement the system at more than 1,300 stores in 18 countries, starting with Norway and the UK in the new year.
Once rolled out, 30,000 employees will swipe in and out with smartcards at the beginning and end of their shifts. The system will reduce administration by recording shifts electronically and should help improve sales by scheduling shifts to coincide with the busiest times in stores.
H&M will link the system to its electronic point of sale (Epos) applications rather than its merchandising software, which forecasts demand for products, because it deemed that historic sales information would be adequate for planning shift patterns.
The scheduling application is also linked to H&M's human resources and payroll systems, which lets the retailer control staff costs more accurately.
The retailer said its biggest challenge in implementing the system would be making the business processes simple enough to gain the acceptance of store managers in countries as diverse as Slovenia and Ireland.
"We have to be really sure that we do not start a country roll-out if the shop managers do not understand what they are going to do. If we do not have acceptance from the shop managers, the investment will be wasted," said Pär Lindback, assistant business controller at H&M.
The Workforce Management application from software supplier WorkPlace Systems will be hosted at a datacentre in Stockholm. Each country will take responsibility for the implementation of the system and will judge whether shop managers in that country are ready to introduce it.
Lindback said, "I would like to say that this will be on-site everywhere by the end of 2008, but it is really hard for me to give an estimate."
The WorkPlace application estimates how many employees are needed throughout the week by tracking an individual store's sales. H&M is integrating WorkPlace with its Epos systems, but the company said the process had been made more complicated because it has yet to standardise its Epos software across Europe.
H&M has already taken steps to ensure it has the bandwidth to support 1,300 stores on its network, after spending the past few years improving connectivity as part of a Citrix implementation.
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