From a Four Square in the Far North town of Houhora to a New World in Wellington’s Island Bay, Foodstuffs North Island has a 300-strong network of New Zealand-owned and operated grocery retailers serving communities right across the North Island.

One of Foodstuff’s top priorities is ensuring its local owner-operators — who manage its New World, PAK’nSAVE and Four Square stores — have access to the right technical support when they need it and can meet the needs of their customers every day of the year.

As an organisation offering an essential service in towns and cities across the North Island, there is no room for downtime — a fact that has been highlighted by recent Covid-19 lockdowns with tens of thousands of people relying on Foodstuffs stores for vital food and supplies.

Since 2007, Datacom has worked with Foodstuffs North Island to reduce already impressive response times for fixing technical faults at sites, no matter where the store is located.

Closer to the customer

One recent initiative to improve response times has seen Datacom storing spare parts in local warehouses that are closer to Foodstuffs stores, helping field engineers to fix faults and undertake maintenance more flexibly.

The current service level agreement (SLA) requires Datacom to be on-site at any Foodstuffs North Island store within two hours, 24/7, at least 95 per cent of the time. The actual average on-site response time is under one hour and service restoration is under two hours.

“We couldn’t have achieved this without Datacom. Over time, we’ve maintained SLA performance progress, lowered costs, and added new services,” says Campbell Mander, head of IT operations and security at Foodstuffs North Island.

A trusting partnership

Datacom also supports Foodstuffs North Island's IT networks and back-office computers.

“One of the key things we implemented with Datacom was real-time SLA monitoring,” says Campbell. “It allows us to identify and respond to problems before they cause disruption to the business or our customers.”

Datacom acts as first responders for technical issues in stores (answering over 600 on-site service requests each month) and is responsible for end-to-end spare parts logistics. Our engineers also provide two yearly on-site IT warranty of fitness checks to identify and address any issues that may cause future faults or outages.

This field service and logistical support were implemented across every one of Foodstuffs North Island's 300 stores, with each owner and operator adopting the same centralised approach.

“Being a co-operative is a huge advantage,” says Simon Kennedy, Foodstuffs North Island's chief digital officer. “We've got owners in every one of our store locations who are passionately invested in the business, who want the best for their local customers, and are applying their entrepreneurial skills to make it happen.

“We need to have a centralised excellence approach, but distributed delivery, which we have been able to achieve with Datacom. It also allows us to keep security network performance high and ensures our devices are interoperable.”

Meeting the COVID-19 challenge

That centralised support model came into its own when coronavirus forced millions of Kiwis into lockdown and created extraordinary demand across the Foodstuffs North Island network of stores.

Online shopping orders spiked to 400 per cent during the first level 4 lockdown compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The challenge for us was keeping pace, scaling online, and picking, packing, and dispatching from stores beyond usual peak capacity,” says Simon.

“Datacom were in it together with us,” says Campbell.

“Their SLA performance was 100 per cent during lockdown, which was an unprecedented period of activity for the business. There was no friction whatsoever. They are like an extension of our team.”

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