Until 2011, point-of-sale video auditing pioneer Agilence, Inc., was a software company in need of hardware relief. The appliances on which it delivers its flagship Hawkeye 20/20 solution for retail loss prevention at the checkout counter were purchased off-the-shelf as white boxes from multiple server manufacturers and then loaded, configured, tested and shipped by Agilence personnel.
That do-it-yourself strategy created complications ranging from varying server componentry that caused software compatibility problems, to lengthy configuration cycles that hindered timely fulfillment of large orders.
Those headaches disappeared when the company began outsourcing hardware manufacturing, integration and logistics responsibilities to MBX Systems. Today MBX supplies Agilence with highly customized appliances that are built on a base platform with identical components to avoid repeated software testing and adjustments.
- Complete appliance customization
- No in-house integration needed
- Component consistency from unit to unit
- Automated configuration for scalability
- 4 hours of configuration time saved per unit
- Unnecessary retesting time eliminated
- Ability to process large orders quickly
- Branding,logistics and return services
- 50% reduction in shipping costs
Agilence’s Hawkeye solution is designed to reduce retail losses caused by cashier theft, employee procedural errors, and operational problems such as improperly applied discounts and packaging-related product scanning mistakes at the point of sale (POS).
The software syncs every item scan and key punch of a store’s POS system with video and static images captured by store cameras in real time, and provides a robust query tool and live alerts as well as visual documentation to help retailers quickly zero in on the factors contributing to retail shrink. The 134-store grocery chain Raley’s, for example, has recovered $18 million in lost revenue with Hawkeye watching over checkout activities.
Agilence supplies the complete Hawkeye package on pre-loaded and pre-tested appliances that are specifically configured for each retailer’s POS platform, transaction volume and back-end technology infrastructure to simplify deployment and optimize performance. But the company’s original strategy of handling hardware duties in-house added too much overhead and too many inefficiencies.
“We bought off-the-shelf boxes from different vendors, depending on price and availability, but components changed from vendor to vendor and even on different shipments from the same vendor. Every time a shipment came in with a different motherboard or memory, we had to retest and recalibrate our software to avoid performance problems,” said Derek Rodner, Agilence Vice President of Product Strategy. “We needed a stable hardware environment that could be locked down, replicated for every order, and changed only when components were sunsetted or upgraded to avoid constantly touching the systems.”
Other stumbling blocks included the four-hour configuration required for each unit – monopolizing staff resources better dedicated to more productive tasks as well as making it difficult to accept large orders with short deadlines – and the time needed to stage finished systems for mass drop shipment to end customers. In addition, Agilence was paying twice for shipping each box (first to receive it from the hardware manufacturer and then to send it to the end customer), double taping each carton because of the two-step process (giving the package a secondhand look), and forced to deal with returns and RMAs internally.
“We’re a software company, not a hardware company,” Rodner noted. “We needed to get out of the business of building and shipping hardware, but we have complex needs, and we needed a hardware manufacturer that could do more than just install our encoder card in a box.”
We needed a stable hardware environment that could be locked down, replicated for every order, and changed only when components were sunsetted or upgraded.
The Process: Customization Plus
After evaluating multiple providers, Agilence selected MBX for its system customization capabilities, value-added services like software imaging and branding, and willingness to tailor every step of the build and fulfillment process to Agilence’s unique requirements.
Accordingly, MBX engineered a custom platform design to optimize Agilence’s application as well as minimize system costs. MBX personnel assemble each box on a dedicated production line, load the Agilence OS and the current version of the Hawkeye software configured for each retailer and every store location, test each box to ensure that it’s working properly, apply Agilence branding, cross-ship to each customer location, and notify Agilence upon delivery.
“Whenever we receive a Hawkeye order, we simply go to MBX Hatch and enter our retail customer’s information, address and configuration information for that particular build. MBX handles everything else related to assembling and delivering finished systems, whether it’s for a five-unit order or 500,” Rodner said. That includes:
- Modifying the build to match the end customer’s environment, with variables including the number of hard drives, the presence or absence of video encoder cards depending on the type of camera in each store, and POS parsers customized to ensure that Hawkeye data will properly populate the customer’s specific POS database.
- Automating image processing and multi-unit configuration to accelerate order fulfillment, saving at least four hours of build time per box. MBX-written scripts extract required setup information from each Agilence order in MBX Hatch, eliminating time-consuming manual data entry and associated error risk by the builder. In addition, an MBX-developed broadcast configuration system can image large numbers of boxes simultaneously, dramatically shortening turnaround time for order delivery.
- Running an inventory management program under which assembled but unconfigured units are put into stock in an MBX warehouse and imaged on demand as new orders are received, enabling faster delivery as well as relieving Agilence of warehousing and related costs. Systems in stock are also used to replace units in the field when necessary, with returns and RMAs again handled by MBX.
- Sourcing, stocking and kitting accessories for shipment with each unit, including system documentation as well as a keyboard, mouse, monitor, cables, UPS and surge protector – all without any need for Agilence involvement.Running an inventory management program.
We simply go to MBX Hatch and enter our customer’s information, address and configuration for that particular build. MBX handles everything else.