Plantasjen: Smart store logistics with smartphones and apps

Smart store logistics with smartphones and apps

In contrast to what many other retailers are experiencing, the gardening chain Plantagen has not been affected by the recession. During the second quarter of the year, the company’s net sales amounted to SEK 2.132 billion and profit to SEK 543 million, making the quarter the strongest in the company’s history. Because when times are tougher, interest in gardening, plants and other things related to one’s own home increases.

“Historically, we do better in bad times,” says Olav Fyldeng, CIO at Plantagen. “This has been the case ever since the financial crisis of 2008. At the same time, we’re competing with plenty of other hobby and leisure activities for consumers’ time and money, so it’s important that we deliver value and create a sense of joy with planting and working with flowers and plants.”

Plantagen’s first store was established in Norway more than 35 years ago and has since been joined by another 122 stores in Norway, Sweden and Finland. There is naturally also an online store as well that accounts for an increasing share of the company’s sales. Since 2016, Plantagen has been owned by the Swedish investment company Ratos, a recognized long-term player with a 150-year history of successful entrepreneurship.

CIO with a focus on logistics

Olav Fyldeng is a strongly supply chain-oriented CIO with extensive experience from the 3PL industry, retail and IT consulting with a focus on business systems. Experience of major value in a business whose core is purchasing, logistics, distribution and sales.

“It’s important that those of us who work with IT are able to support the company in delivering value, and that we do so throughout our customers’ journeys – before, during and after a purchase. There is otherwise a risk that customers will start bird watching, biking or something else,” he says with a smile.

Many companies develop apps. What sets Agrippa apart from the others is that they have a unique understanding of processes, logistics and business systems.
Olav Fyldeng
CIO Plantasjen

Out with computers, in with mobiles

In recent years, a successful initiative has been carried out to equip staff throughout the organization with smartphones and eliminate traditional computers. Of Plantagen’s approximately 2,400 employees, only 400 have a desk and can thus benefit from a conventional computer. The others have no fixed workplaces.

“Everything is now mobile out in our stores. The aim is to give staff the tools they need to do their job as well as possible and to provide first-rate customer service. Mobile phones are powerful tools that give access to vital business information,” says Olav, and believes that today’s smartphones are significantly better than the handheld computers that have been used by frontline workers thus far.

Kodak moment

“Because we got started a little late, we skipped the phase when many others created their own networks and bought handheld computers,” Olav explains. “We’ve instead gone straight to the point and are using ordinary smartphones on our regular network.

Mobile phones have become better and are more rugged than before, and they also have better cameras, image processing and run apps better. I think it’s a bit of a ‘Kodak moment’ for many of the established players, who seem to have fallen behind in terms of both hardware and software.”

Cloud-based, user-friendly solution

The approximately fifteen hundred mobile phones that have thus far been sent out to Plantagen’s employees are equipped with the Agrippa Retail app, a cloud-based solution that manages and facilitates many activities in the stores, and which has been developed in collaboration with Plantagen. Olav and software vendor IMI Agrippa Solutions got to know each other back in 2016 when Olav was building an automated central warehouse in the fashion industry.

“We then introduced an app-based and user-friendly system for reporting deviations and errors in the warehouse, with both text and images,” says Olav. “By equipping the warehouse staff with smartphones running Agrippa’s software, errors and deviations could be reported directly where they occurred. For example, by scanning the barcode for a certain storage location, which significantly reduced downtime. This collaboration became a tremendous success for both parties and is the basis for the solution that has been developed for Plantagen over a number of years.”


Understanding of logistics and business systems

Together with Agrippa, Olav and his team developed the Agrippa Retail solution, which enables store staff to manage goods reception, inventory, product location, campaign viewing, product information supply, order completion, incident management and much more. Moreover, the phones can be used to inform staff, scan barcodes, make printouts and send images or videos.

“Many companies develop apps. What sets Agrippa apart from the others is that they have a unique understanding of processes, logistics and business systems. Those who come from the app side do not sufficiently understand the underlying processes, but focus more on an attractive interface,” Olav says.


25 percent efficiency gains

Plantagen’s various IT systems have thus far had their own user interfaces and overlapping functionality. Because of this, consolidation of the systems has also begun, resulting in a major positive impact on IT costs.

“In collaboration with us, the innovative and talented people at Agrippa have developed a solution where we have eliminated four out of six interfaces and gathered them on a single platform, and we will eventually consolidate the last two systems as well. Multiple systems can be merged because they have similar functionality. I see efficiency gains here of over 25 percent for a normal IT department,” says Olav, proudly declaring that he has reduced his own budget from SEK 84 million to SEK 59 million in two years by consolidating and eliminating systems that do not create real value. He points out that the highly competitive retail industry has taken a long time to change due to a previous extended period of constant growth and increasing profitability.

“The entire industry has continued in its old ways and has reacted far too late to the changed market conditions. There are tremendous opportunities for further efficiency gains, not only in IT, but throughout the supply chain.”

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About Olav Fyldeng

  • Education: Masters in Business and Economics, Norwegian School of Economics (NHH).
  • Career: 25 years of experience in the IT industry, including as an ERP consultant at Accenture for ten years and the past ten years in senior roles in retail.
  • Best leadership advice: Hire employees who are smarter than you.
  • Family: Wife and three children.
  • Interests: Do-it-yourself projects, including in the gardens both at home and at the country house, and all kinds of technology.

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