Modernizing Inventory Management
The original Cole Hardware was founded in 1959 by Dave Karp. Today, his son, Rick Karp has four stores throughout the city of San Francisco. Technology is at the heart of operations for this small business. Karp currently spends 50,000 to 100,000 dollars annually on IT to help optimize and grow the SMB. Correspondent Sumi Das visits the store on a busy day and talks to Karp and his IT manager Robin Miller about how he uses inventory management software and scanners to help catalogue.
Moe Amera: You find everything you need my friend.
Male 1: Yeah.
Moe Amera: Okay, excellent.
Sumi Das: Moe Amera is the assistant floor manager at Cole Hardware in San Francisco.
Moe Amera: Let me know if you guys need any help down there.
Sumi Das: Today, he’s facing typical customer services challenges.
Moe Amera: I think we used to carry it but it may have been discontinued. What I could do is let me check another store because they may have some in inventory there. You want to hang on a second? Thanks.
Sumi Das: A customer is looking for an electric drill but it's in one of his other stores.
Moe Amera: It turns out that are our store over on Poke, they’ve got two of them installed.
Sumi Das: He’s counting on IT to help him find the item.
Moe Amera: All right, and what I’ll do is I give them a call and I’ll tell them to hold it for you, all right? Okay, thanks.
Sumi Das: Technology is at the heart of operations for this small business but it wasn’t always that way. In the early 80’s Rick Karp the owner of Cole Hardware took over the business from his Father Dave Karp who founded the original hardware store in 1959.
Dave Karp: I was looking for a hardware store and I found out a plumbing whole sale house call me up and said “Dave there is a store on Cole Street that I think you and your wife Margie can make it go at” and suddenly Rick started when he was 12 years old and he never left.
Sumi Das: But his son wanted to modernize the hardware store.
Moe Amera: Just this two for you?
Male 1: Yeah.
Sumi Das: Adding technology to help organize the business.
Rick Karp: The business has changed tremendously, I mean at that time my dad was running the store has a one person band if you will.
Sumi Das: And at what point did it stopped working well?
Rick Karp: I think it stopped working well when he’s little kid came into the business and said “I don’t want to live like this”.
Sumi Das: Since taking over, Karp has implemented a number of tech solutions to meet his business needs, ones that more in available in the 60’s.
Male 2: And what kind of finishes do you want in that?
Sumi Das: Keeping track of inventory was the biggest challenge.
Male 2: Nothing everything is 48.
Sumi Das: So they started implementing software to help catalog thousands of items across the supply chain.
Rick Karp: We have probably about 45,000 different items in the store here and just to manage the inventory alone without a computer system would be sort of a nightmare.
Sumi Das: Today, the inventory system has helped the business optimized and gro, from just one store to four throughout the City of San Francisco. One of the way ways Cole Hardware is able to keep track of glue, sealant and duck tape across all four stores is by using this hand held scanners.
Robin Miller: Well you got to break old habit.
Sumi Das: Robin Miller is Cole Hardware’s IT manager.
Robin Miller: The employees use these; they walk around the store with them they scanned out locations. We also do cycle counting with them to keep our inventory counts accurate for inventory evaluation. And the other thing they can do with them is when they move merchandiser around, put where the home, the location code of the merchandise is.
Male 3: All right, can I get a $20.00 meter card up front.
Sumi Das: New technologies have helped Cole Hardware reach profitability and continue to grow. It's investment on IT between $50,000.00 to a $100,000.00 annually.
Rick Karp: We look at it totally from an opportunity perspective and how it can help us grow our business not really as an expense. So I don’t track it that way, but we do spend.
Sumi Das: Karps latest IT spend is on analytics which helps him understand how the store is performing day by day.
Rick Karp: With this screen here is one that I look at everyday it shows us on the top what all four stores did in sales yesterday compared to the same retail day last year and then this is the same thing that a month to day comparison and a year to day comparison and it's just a nice snap shot of the help of the business if you will in terms of what coming in the front door.
Sumi Das: Karp doesn’t have grand ambitions to take on Home Depot it's exactly the opposite.
Male 4: Thank you very much.
Rick Karp: No desire be a replica of a big chain like that I think our nitch is San Francisco specific and whether we’ll grow or not is a big question more or less. And we have a wonderful management group within our business that is ready to take on challenges.
Sumi Das: In the end his goal to be community driven and small business focused. For Bnet I'm Sumi Das.
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