January 10, 2012, 11:10 AM

How the Potpourri Group speeds up order processing

The cataloger and e-retailer can now ship orders hours sooner than before.

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Installing a new order data storage system is helping Potpourri Group Inc. save time and money by reducing the amount of time it takes to process order data and get orders to the warehouse for fulfillment. The catalog and web retailer, No. 141 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, operates a handful of retail sites, including CountryStoreCatalog.com, NorthStyle.com and TheStitchery.com, which the company says generate approximately 3 million orders a year.

The retailer’s sites operate on a version of RedPrairie Direct Commerce, formerly Escalate Retail's Ecometry e-commerce application, that runs on servers maintained at Potpourri Group’s headquarters. When orders come in via the web, phone or mail, they are entered through the RedPrairie application, which then holds the orders until Potpourri processes them in a batch. Using its previous storage system, it typically took five hours to process a day’s worth of orders, says Billy Lannan, technical services manager at Potpourri Group. The use of the Ecometry application required the retailer to install servers from Winchester Systems Inc., which can process orders more quickly than the older system.

Now, he says, it takes approximately two hours to process a batch of orders. Potpourri also used to have an I.T. administrator work the overnight shift to run the batch processing. With the new system’s shorter run time, an administrator comes in a little earlier than the day shift to process the previous day’s orders so the warehouse staff can fill them that day.

“It doesn’t matter how fast your server is if your storage is slow,” Lannan says, noting that the previous storage system could not be modified to provide more speed. “It wasn’t that our old system was bad, but for the money we spent the performance was a downer for us. When we run order processing it has to read through all the records in the database and it will only read as fast as it can read.” The new storage hardware from Winchester, Lannan says, processes data more quickly and can be expanded when Potpourri fills it up without shutting down the whole system. 

Lannan says the time it takes to run Potpourri’s month-end reports also reduced dramatically since adding the new storage system. It used to take 16 hours to run the reports; now it takes six. 

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