Technology Update: Montgomery County, MD

For staff, customers, and vendors who deal with the Montgomery County, MD Department of Liquor Control, 2010 was an exciting year. That’s when the department replaced its POS hardware and software, and undertook a number of initiatives to integrate technology across the department, improve efficiency in stores and create a better purchasing environment for customers.

“The system we had from 1999 until last year had no formal technical support and we had no maintenance contract for our hardware,” says Jhason Abuan, the DLC’s IT Manager. “We had to anticipate every year what would break and we had no customization to offer common features like gift cards or website integration.”

As a result, the department replaced all of its POS hardware and software in its 25 stores with an implementation from Microsoft Dynamics Retail Manager and IBM X Series 3400 servers. It worked with contractor Systems Technology Group (STG) to integrate the technology with existing warehouse and online systems. The system went live in October 2010 and has already positively impacted staff and customers.

“The feedback from customers was how impressed they were that our credit card system is much faster than it used to be,” says Diane Wurdeman, Retail Operations Manager. “They can also see their order on a screen as it’s being rung up. Our clerks also love the system because they don’t have to count credit cards at the end of their shift anymore. You can imagine how much time that saves when 75 percent of our sales are in credit cards.”

The increased efficiency in ringing up credit card transactions is a welcome benefit of outsourcing the credit card processing to a third-party to protect sensitive data, Abuan says. “In order to be compliant with credit card regulations, we used to have separate swipe terminals for credit cards,” he says. “Now the sensitive information is stored by our partner Shift4 and it alleviates our spending an exorbitant amount of money to hold that information.”

Thanks to STG’s integration of the POS system and the county’s existing warehouse purchasing system, customers can now query product availability online in real-time. Typing in a product name on the county’s website returns the stores where that product is available, the quantity, price and whether it’s on sale, and a locator tool that gives directions to the closest store carrying it. “The inventory is updated every hour so it’s very helpful to citizens,” Abuan says. “We’re working on adding product photos as well so it’s even easier to use.”

Now that the hardware is upgraded, the department is focusing on its email newsletters, which promote sales and new products. “We’re moving a lot of our advertising dollars to the web and out of newspapers to capture the attention of our online users,” Abuan says. “We feel it’s a trend and it’s another way we can save money.”

When it comes to spending money wisely, though, the department isn’t afraid of investing for the future. “We chose to buy good equipment that has a good record of support because we’d lived through a previous system where a cheap procurement route was taken,” Wurdeman says. “We spent more money in the end making up for the fact that the system and equipment were of a lower grade. There ware a lot of lessons learned there.”


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