Haverty Rests Easy with Help from Perle

Though resting easy is typically what the furniture business is all about, one retailer found it difficult to sit back while booming business overburdened the capacity of its IT infrastructure.

When Haverty Furniture Companies Inc., an Atlanta-based independent furniture retailer, realized APPN over Frame Relay was just not going to cut it, the company looked to Perle Systems Ltd. (Markham, Ontario) for a hand.

The response time Haverty was experiencing using APPN protocol was "abysmal," according to Keith Wyatt, manager of communications and technical support for Haverty Furniture. While searching for alternatives, he began to wonder about upgrading his existing Perle remote controllers to 494E models with TCP/IP.

"I had gone into the project expecting better response times, but I was blown away by the actual results," Wyatt says. "I had not expected sub-second response times."

Haverty depends upon a real-time, online point-of-sale inventory system developed in-house to meet the needs of the company’s sales force, according to Wyatt.

An added benefit of implementing TCP/IP was the workload on the AS/400 – the number of transactions that actually occurred per hour – dramatically increased, and "the sales staff began using functions that they had ignored simply because the response was so slow," Wyatt says.

Haverty now uses a Perle controller – either a 594e or 494e – at each of its 129 sites throughout the Southeast. Each site also uses TCP/IP over Frame Relay, the result of an 18-month conversion from APPN over Frame Relay initiated in February of 1997.

The 594e acts as a remote server that enables the furniture company to expand its PC base, which in turn enables the sales force to take advantage of "customer follow-up functions" using tools like Lotus Domino, according to Wyatt.

Each order goes, via controller, from a router to one of the company’s nine AS/400s. These midrange servers maintain local inventory files for designated retail locations, Wyatt explains. Haverty sales representatives use either terminals or, more recently, PCs to access not only inventory information from their AS/400s, but credit check information as well. Wyatt says the goal of these interactions, aside from accuracy, is to provide the necessary information with minimal delay.

The decision to convert to TCP/IP was made easier to implement with the release of version 2.0 of Perle’s 594e controller, according to Wyatt. "While the upgrade to 594e controllers doesn’t change system response time, [they have] enabled Haverty to consider putting more PCs in its retail locations," he says.

Haverty typically expands its business by about six or seven retail locations per year. As this continues, Wyatt says he plans to install 594e controllers at each new location.