Akris Japan, founded in 2002, is the Japanese subsidiary of the Swiss luxury apparel brand Akris. Following a merger in 2008, Akris Japan found it increasingly difficult to manage its diverse lines of business with separate management systems for sales, inventory, and customer information. Preparing vital business reports took a week or more. With the help of Microsoft partner The Head, Akris Japan deployed an integrated business system based on the Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. As a result, the couture fashion house gained a flexible, comprehensive business management system with fast data access. And because SQL Server 2008 R2 includes built-in business intelligence tools it is highly cost-effective. The new system has not only cut report preparation time dramatically, it can also be easily extended.Situation
Akris Japan is the Japanese subsidiary of the Swiss luxury apparel company Akris. Akris also offers Akris Punto, a day-wear collection. The Japanese company, founded in 2002 and headquartered in Tokyo, today operates 36 stores throughout the country.
||Flexibility is the most important thing about our new management system, based on the .NET Framework and SQL Server. We do not have to say, ‘We can’t do that with our system.’ Changes are easy.
Senior Manager, Sales Planning Division
In 2008, Akris purchased the high-fashion handbag brand Comtesse to expand and complement its collections, and it is now manufacturing and selling handbags under the Akris brand as well.
Since its beginnings, Akris Japan had used a logistics system to manage its inventory. However, this system did not work with the point of sale (POS) systems at stores, so the company managed store sales separately with Microsoft Office Access database software. To create reports, information from Office Access was entered manually into Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software. “I had to prepare nearly 100 reports each month that were used to establish customer service measurements and to provide support for sales promotion and management,” says Masayuki Nakagawa, Senior Manager of the Sales Planning Division for the Sales Department at Akris Japan. “Because of the diverse systems, I was spending a week to 10 days just preparing reports.” And, with no real-time access to data, there was a time lag in confirming inventory.
Akris Japan has always been customer-focused, so, the merger with Comtesse prompted company executives to seek a solution to help it improve operations and customer service. Akris Japan wanted the new solution to incorporate business intelligence (BI) capabilities. Because of the nature of the fashion industry, where change is the norm, the Japanese company also needed a flexible solution that was easy to update, and that could grow as Akris Japan expanded. Solution
Akris Japan chose to implement the HeadPro Apparel System from The Head, a Microsoft partner. The Head has extensive experience in the apparel industry, which gave Akris Japan confidence in its choice. As an industry-specific solution, the HeadPro system provides comprehensive inventory management. For example, it handles detailed stock-keeping units (SKUs), tracking such items as differences in color, cloth variations, and sizes. It manages events such as exhibitions and the handling of personal data.
Based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software and the Microsoft .NET Framework, the HeadPro system provides an integrated system for the centralized management of data with real-time sharing of information among the stores and headquarters. Components include sales, inventory, and customer information management. Employees can use the system to reference sales history, prepare direct marketing, and perform multiple types of data analysis with the BI functions. The solution also makes it possible to reference product ledgers that include image data.
With the help of Microsoft Services, The Head began deploying the new management system in April 2009, which became operational in February 2010.
Akris Japan calls its new system ACCESS. “Our new ACCESS management system, based on SQL Server 2008 R2, uses letters from both Akris and Comtesse and embodies an expectation for seamless access to information,” says Nakagawa.Benefits
For Akris Japan, the ACCESS system, although still in the initial phases, is having a significant effect. The company expects its new system to help enhance customer service. It is comprehensive, cost-effective, and it delivers fast access to data. It provides built-in BI tools that save the company money. It simplifies reporting, and it can adjust to the growing needs of the company. “Flexibility is the most important thing about our new management system, based on the .NET Framework and SQL Server,” says Nakagawa. “We do not have to say ‘We can’t do that with our system.’ Changes are easy.”Provides a Flexible, Inclusive SystemThe new ACCESS system supports the full range of Akris fashion lines. It provides sales, inventory, and customer information management, and business intelligence. “With support for so many activities, we expect this comprehensive system will help us go broader and deeper in providing customer service. We are already able to determine the status of customer contact with each salesperson.”Nakagawa also says that the company is soliciting suggestions from its salespeople, including changes that could be made to the web interface to make the system easier to use. “Because it’s easy to add features and components with our Microsoft solution, the system can flexibly grow as requirements change,” he says.
Delivers Fast Data Access
||By using SQL Server 2008 R2, we could not only deliver a database, we could also provide Akris Japan with business intelligence tools, at a reasonable cost.
Director, General Sales Department, and Managing Director
Performance has been good. “We’re in our second year of using the system, and we’ve accumulated a lot of sales data,” says Nakagawa. “Because we can drop the data from the data cube directly into Microsoft Excel, we can reference that data quickly.” Many Japanese stores that feature Akris apparel use asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) connections to link to the company network—a broadband technology for data transmission over copper telephone lines—which has not hindered the adoption of the system. “We’ve finding that even in stores with ADSL connections, data access is fast,” says Nakagawa.
Eventually, when the company has defined its needs and analytical requirements, it plans to use SQL Server Reporting Services to give users realtime access to data over the web, with just a click of the mouse.
Offers Cost-Effective Business Intelligence
Because the ACCESS system is based on SQL Server 2008 R2, providing business intelligence for Akris Japan was highly cost-effective. “To have to deploy a BI-specific framework after introducing sales, inventory, and customer information management could be a costly burden,” says Saichiro Hokari, Director of the General Sales Department and Managing Director of The Head. “But by using SQL Server 2008R2, not only could we deliver a database, we could also provide Akris Japan with business intelligence tools, at a reasonable cost.”
SQL Server Analysis Services are used for data analysis, along with OLAP, to give the company business intelligence that can help it become more competitive without a heavy financial cost. “Akris Japan is happy with the both ease of use and the costs,” says Hokari.
With its new system, Akris Japan has dramatically cut report times and the number of reports. “Because there are seamless connections with our store system, some reports are no longer required,” says Nakagawa. “I plan to use the time that I have saved to focus on plans and actions that improve services to customers.”
Supports Future Growth
Because the ACCESS system is based on Microsoft products and technologies, Akris Japan expects it to continue to deliver benefits in the long term. For example, the company plans to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010 in the nature future. “With Excel 2010, we should be able to take advantage of PowerPivot for Excel 2010, a free add-in tool of SQL Server 2008 R2,” says Nakagawa. “And we have built such a flexible system that the possibilities for future expansion are quite open.”Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 delivers higher scalability for mission-critical environments, more efficient IT, and expanded reporting and analytics through self-service business intelligence.
For more information about Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, go to: For More Information
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