This LP manager was able to convince this 80-store tool company to go chain-wide with IP video by proving its business benefits throughout the company.
When Todd Gulbranson decided his company needed to upgrade its LP technology, he knew he would never get the money for DVRs based just on LP needs. This is when he decided to go with a grassroots push to leverage IP video and combined analytics for multiple departments.
Gulbranson is the corporate loss prevention manager for Northern Tool & Equipment. The construction tools and consumer goods company is a family-owned business run by Founder and CEO Donald Kotula. The Minnesota-based company started as a hydraulics shop in Kotula’s garage and has since grown into a $700 million retail and manufacturing business with stores in 15 states. The company employs more than 2,000 people who are trained in the company’s core values: Know your customer, provide value, act with integrity, empower the individual, be entrepreneurial, and have fun. Following these values has allowed the company to survive, and even grow, in a down economy.
A Grass-Roots Campaign To Secure Budget
A company striving to impart these values takes theft very seriously, almost personally. However, like all retail projects, securing the budget for a new LP video system takes time and effort. Knowing this, Gulbranson decided to go with his grass-roots method and start the research on his own. At the end of 2008, Gulbranson began his search for a new LP video solution. The current analog system did not cover enough of the stores, offered no analytics, and had lousy resolution. LP could barely use the system, let alone any other department. The LP manager needed to find out what other departments needed that a new solution could offer. Gulbranson started with merchandising. “I asked them what they needed to be able to see that they couldn’t now,” Gulbranson says. “They responded with a number of things, but what I focused on was space planning, the number of people passing displays, and where they were dwelling. These were all things I knew an IP video solution could help with.”
Next was IT. LP and IT generally had no relationship up to this point, unless something broke down. The IT department was interested in anything that could take some of the overload off its back. Resources are stretched thin, and having newer equipment with fewer moving parts and little infrastructure equipment fit right in with their plans. So far, so good. Next was marketing. “This one was easy,” Gulbranson says. “Marketing wanted to do one thing — drive sales. The big thing they needed to know was if advertising was effective, and one of the best ways to do this is to track traffic and conversion, two of the strongest areas for IP video analytics.” After this it was time to move up the ladder. Gulbranson went through the same exercise with the company VPs and got the same results. It was time to find the solution. Before presenting his case to the board, Gulbranson investigated companies like 3VR, BVI, Intellex, Avigilon, and i3 International to see the types of cameras they offered, storage methods, and ease of video access, along with all of the associated solutions’ analytics. He eventually decided to go with i3, but the issue of securing budget was still a major concern. He had the company issues by department, and he felt he had the solution, but would the board see it that way?
It was a year from when Gulbranson began his investigation to when he presented his solution to the board, and by then the entire company was on his side. Rather than approaching the solution presentation from an LP perspective, Gulbranson presented it as a business tool. “I went through each of our business pain points and showed how an IP video solution with advanced analytics could potentially solve them,” he says. “Not once during the presentation did I mention the LP aspect of the solution, and they loved it and approved the project. I never thought I would ever get an LP project approved without ever mentioning LP, but it happened.”
“I went through each of our business pain points and showed how an IP video solution with advanced analytics could potentially solve them.” Todd Gulbranson, corporate loss prevention manager, Northern Tool & Equipment
IP Video — A True Business Solution
Once approved, the conversion to i3 video with analytics took about two years to implement chain-wide. The cameras run on Northern’s own network, but this has not resulted in a massive drain on bandwidth, which had been a concern of the IT department. Video and analytics can be retrieved from anywhere with Internet access and a secure login. From an LP perspective, the results have been night and day. The imagery is crisp and clear, and it makes investigations much easier. The imagery is not the only benefit; the analytics are hugely beneficial with exception-based reporting from the POS to irregular activity reports. If a transaction has been flagged, the time-stamped video can be pulled up remotely to see if it warrants investigation or not. This saves a trip for the LP department and saves time and money. All of the other departments are also reaping the benefits of the IP video installation. The marketing group has been able to work with merchandising to track traffic and adjust advertising and merchandising displays. This has resulted in a 4% improvement in conversion. IT has fewer issues to respond to, and managers can pull up store data instantly while also looking for potential slip, trip, and fall hazards throughout the stores. Gulbranson’s unique approach to proving a solution’s benefits to the company overall comes directly from the company’s core values of being entrepreneurial, empowering the individual, and providing value. By proving the value of the solution to the company as a whole, he was able to better serve the company and its customers from his LP position.