A replacement of its aging IT system and $125 a million investment in an automated distribution centre has helped independent grocer Drakes Supermarkets ensure it could continue to serve customers as demand spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Drakes Supermarkets have implemented Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) which helps support the retailer’s advanced robotics technology, warehouse management, point of sales (POS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems – enabling the retailer to access and respond to real-time stock demand.

Drakes operates more than 60 stores across South Australia and Queensland and employs more than 6,000 staff, a number which is continuing to grow in order to manage the increase in sales. 

The retailers’ operations are supported by a 50,000 sqm state-of-the-art automated distribution centre in South Australia’s Edinburgh North.

Phillip Romano, IT manager at Drakes explains, “While consumers are currently flooding into supermarkets, the retail industry as a whole continues to experience unprecedented levels of pressure, competition and consolidation.

Romano said the company has seen its warehousing and IT requirements more than double in the past weeks but they’ve maintained 100 per cent availability across all of its systems. 

“We can now focus on taking care of our communities’ shopping needs, getting those staff who can do to work remotely, and hire new staff directly from the increasing pool of unemployed Australians,” he said. 

“To remain competitive and retain customer loyalty, we need to drive efficiency and create personalised experiences. We see Nutanix and Nuago as key to building the technology and infrastructure we need to do that.”

Drakes aims to expand the HCI environment across all stores and wholesale arms. This makes Drakes Supermarkets the first independent grocer to be vertically integrated. The independent retailer also worked with Adelaide-based IT partner, Nuago to set up the software. 

Drakes brought its distribution in-house and modernised its IT environment primarily to lower costs and pass those savings onto customers, with the aim of taking $1,000 off the average family’s annual grocery bill, according to CEO Roger Drake.

Drakes is no stranger to digital transformation as last year it was one of the first companies in Australia to trail the IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-based food ecosystem solution.

And in the future the independent grocer aims to leverage the Nutanix Xi IoT edge intelligence platform – which uses AI to provide real-time data insights – along with video analytics, to create new personalised experiences for customers. It is also considering migrating to the Nutanix AHV hypervisor to support Drakes’ 250 virtual machines (VMs). 

Lee Thompson, managing director, Nutanix ANZ said, “Drakes understands the value of its data and the insight it gives into the purchasing profile of its customers. So, it makes perfect sense to ensure that proprietary information is internally retained. 

“By taking its distribution in-house, Drakes is taking control of its infrastructure and helping drive the future of retail.”

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