Bringing a Custom Point of Sale and Yard Management System into the Modern Age.
When you have a multi-faceted, and unique business model paired with many decades in business - off-the-shelf systems don’t always cut it. Such was the case for Chesterfield Auto Parts (CAP). CAP recognized it was time to invest in their Point of Sale and yard management system to improve their efficiency and user experience across the board. CAP looked for, but couldn’t find, an off the shelf system that allowed them to manage their multiple scrap yards, inventory, and support their unique Point of Sale needs. So they came to us to build it for them, from the ground up.
- User Experience Design
- Product Strategy
- User Research
- Software Engineering
Beginning as a full-service auto parts store back in the 1930’s - Chesterfield Auto Parts has been owned and operated by the same family since 1947.
CAP has never settled for the status quo and in the late 1980’s they pivoted operations to become one of the first self-service salvage yards in the country.
With three locations already, and their eye on the horizon, CAP knew they needed a new software system to support their growth.
When we were first introduced to CAP, we were wondering why they didn’t just buy an off-the-shelf Point of Sale system like every other brick and mortar retailed does. As we started to move through our discovery process with them, we began to understand.
Our discovery process always starts with understanding the people involved.
We went on-site with CAP to conduct user research and to truly understand each person’s role.
We shadowed staff as they navigated customer transactions, helped customers find parts, crushed cars for scrap, checked in inventory, and managed their bookkeeping.
To understand CAP as a whole, we most importantly needed to understand the customer journey from the moment they walked in the door to when they left with a new auto part.
Our goal was to have a holistic picture of how CAP worked, not just their software, so we could keep what worked and optimize what didn’t.
Concurrently with our research, we began to distill what we were learning.
We started mapping the user’s journey and the different processes that made up CAP’s four primary business functions:
- point of sale
- vehicle inventory
- back office
- scrap sales
Breaking down the system into these constituent parts allowed us to have meaningful conversations about priority of functionality, in order to deliver a system that met their current needs while preparing them for the future.
We couldn’t find an off-the-shelf solution that would work for the variety of functions we have to perform each day. Thankfully, the Simple Thread team didn’t try and place us into a box. They spent time watching our operations, asking questions, and truly understanding our needs. The end result is more than we could have hoped for.
From our time on site at CAP - we understood their needs were more than just processing transactions for their customers. They needed to be able to manage their business from end-to-end.
Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words, and so in order to accelerate our learnings we visually designed a system that would fit CAP like a glove.
Using lightweight prototyping software, we began to leverage our research to design a user experience that we could put in front of CAP and iterate on quickly.
As we designed this prototype, we started putting it in front of their staff to get feedback as early and often as possible. We conducted user testing by asking the staff to perform different job tasks within the prototype. We worked collaboratively with them to understand what parts were intuitive and easily understood, where they got hung up, and what needed to be changed.
After testing the user experience and garnering feedback, we were ready to start building out a product that would blow them away.
“The Simple Thread team took the time to deeply understand our business, and that is clearly reflected in the final product. It’s exactly what we needed.”
We built a custom point of sale solution that’s capable of adapting quickly to their needs.
The product is cloud-native, containerized, and deployed in Amazon Web Services to allow for multiple locations to work together seamlessly. The decision to go with a fully cloud-based system wasn’t an easy one.
But through many discussions we decided that having a cloud based application with a wireless backup would provide the reliability and redundancy needed, along with the ability to quickly deploy, troubleshoot, and iterate on the application.
CAP had access to pieces of the new system as they became functional so they could use them and begin to train their employees and provide feedback.
Once the fully-developed digital product was complete, we conducted a slow roll-out, starting with a single computer and testing the live system to ensure things went smoothly.
Our team at Simple Thread is able to take a step back now that the product is fully functional and in the client’s hands, but we’re still at work behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. We’ll be monitoring the system to ensure that it remains performant, secure, and stable.
CAP had access to usable pieces of the system for months prior to the formal roll-out, making the eventual transition easy on employees.
Fitting a business like CAP’s into an off-the-shelf Point of Sale system simply wasn’t an option.
It would have caused too many challenges in how their business needs to operate. Taking payments at the register was such a small part of what they needed this system to do.
Having a system that enables real-time integration of specialized inventory, part lookups, regulatory tracking, scrap sales, and Point of Sale across all of their locations has increased their efficiency and improved the experience for all of their customers.