How have we decided to implement the automation system?


Burenok A.N., «Ost-Optik» Director General,
Vladivostok (Russia).

 

It seems that everything is in rapid evolution nowadays. For a few years some people practically weaned on a huge number of things familiar before. Film cameras, fax machines and even your favorite printed books are superseded by electronic analogs.

There are a lot of rating agencies which rate a debtor’s ability to pay back debt by making timely interest payments and the likelihood of default. And if today you can see in the first place on the Forbes list “Apple”, it almost certainly means not only its success, but also the fact that in a few quarters, it will give a way to another more fortunate company. And the speed of these changes is growing. Accordingly, the share of the rapidly changing and competitive companies on the general and regional markets is also changing. And here is how to “stay in the saddle” and not to disappear from the market?

Experts closely examined numerous aspects of the activities of successful and unsuccessful companies. And by now we agreed that the only symptom significantly distinguishes successful companies from unsuccessful, under otherwise equal conditions, is the IT-factor. In other words the use of the latest achievements of information technologies in business processes and business administration. It also explains the quick change of leaders. Competitors keep watch over their rivals and, if implemented technology is successful they immediately applyit in their companies to maintain a position.

So it is time to talk about the optical market. In Russia it is changing qualitatively and quantitatively. Even the oldest and largest optical companies start to feel uncomfortable on this changing market. There is no longer such absolute leadership and full confidence in the future. And also there’s the WTO with its global optical networks! Nowadays, you need to develop business processes continually in order to feel confident on the market. It is probably clear to all successfully survived in the first 20 years of Russian capitalism companies. And in this difficult situation, IT-factor can become “emergency exit” that allows to improve the management of the company because otherwise we’re all almost identical. We buy frames and lenses from the same distributors in the same countries; we visit the same specialized exhibitions; our leading experts, doctors, opticians, masters listen to the same lectures of the same teachers; similar retail and operating equipment; advertising is also not very different and etc. All we need to administer all our available resources efficiently.

Decide to experiment and make a step to big changes in the company that has many years highly successful history is extremely difficult. Why we should change something, if everything is ok? Who needs it? Ordinary sellers, masters, doctors – no! It will give a lot to study! We can not do it! It’s better to continue to take orders with pencil and piece of paper and then import it in the accounting program 1C. But we have plenty of errors in the process. Human factor. But in this case you can easily correct pencil records retroactively. Middle management also doesn’t want it! They should learn a lot and require knowledges and skills from their employees. Also all their gaps and fails immediately become visible. And what if it still can work out and maybe clever computer will replace us? No, let it go on as before! Probably, such situation is very familiar for all top managers and shareholders of the company!

However, the philosophical interpretation of a famous principle of “If you feel good today, that does not mean it will last forever” helped us (to a small group of top managers and shareholders, persons who are vitally interested in the long-term stability of the company) to decide to implement the system. It happened more than 2 years ago, in late 2010.

We didn’t head to “reinvent the wheel” but intended to buy any ready-made solution for automating optical stores. However, to our amazement, solution suitable for us have not been found. It seemed to us that every sphere of business was already automated (pharmacies, supermarkets, steel mills and so on), but not optical shops! And this is despite the fact that a large part of the population is in need of eye correction and protection. The answer of professional programmers on question “why there is a “white spot” on the map of automation of various business?” was very obvious. There are a lot of difficult processes in the optician business which are hard to translate into computer algorithms processes.

The doctor writes prescriptions, sellers helps to a client to choose a frame and lenses in accordance with a prescription, then take an order and sends it all to the workshop. Then workshop is doing something there. Not correct sometimes despite on plenty of calls and warnings. In a nutshell, it is a hard work. Almost like at a metallurgical plant. But the trouble is that a metallurgical plant can afford development and implementation of the automation system and pay tens of millions of dollars for it. But a small regional optical chain has no even a tenth part of this amount.

Thanks to a company ITigris from St. Petersburg which was able to understand all the complex processe of an optical business and create from scratch software to automate all business processes in optical shops. They called their software Optima, which seemed to us to be very optimistic. And they created the program not for the tens of millions, but in necessary for us economical version.

One more advantage for us was the fact that the program Optima sold as a service. So we didn’t need to buy the program, install it on a computer, to buy more powerfull server with rising quantuty of shops. We just rent needed resources for a reasonable price.

And here we go! Implementation has started!

Part 2. What the introduction of ITigris Optima gave us?