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Green Power Management


As chains work to upgrade their point-of-sale systems, the most savvy are keeping a keen eye on solutions that can slash power consumption—a big pre requisite in retailers’ efforts to transition to more green information technology. This certainly was the case for Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Caremark.

CVS has been using an energy-efficient front-end system for 14 years, specifically the IBM 4683 POS, a thin-dient system.

Similar to dumb terminals, thin clients are not loaded with software. All processing applications are pushed to the terminal via a dedicated server, which means less energy is used at store level since processing happens at the corporate office or data center.

The POS overhaul wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Planning dated back to 1999, when CVS began seeking a solution that could fulfill sound business requirements and adhere to power management requirements.

“This solution also needed to provide a logical, effortless migration path from the old system,” said Raymond Auger, VP retail systems, CVS Caremark. For CVS, the IBM 700 system fit the bill.

From a green perspective, the 700 series provides a remote power management application. The fleet’s performance status is filtered into a database. Managers and executives use local desktops and laptops to tap into a centralized dashboard where they can monitor uptime and power consumption of units in specific stores.

Like other IBM solutions, the 700 series also promotes a long service life that supports a lower total cost of ownership and maximum uptime, which reduces maintenance cost. It also runs the IBM 4690 operating system that runs Java software and is supported by blade servers, a lower power option than traditional servers.

The first set of stores added the new solution in 1999, a move that launched a 10-year plan to replace all existing 4683 units with the new 700 series. The first half of the rollout required the chain to swap out all aging registers with the new units.

“The next step was to spend time measuring the POS fleet’s functionality, stability and reliability on a chain-wide basis,” Auger said. Once the new system was deemed stable, CVS moved to Phase 2: replacing early versions of the 700 series with the newest generation of the platform.

There are approximately seven registers installed per store (10 units in new locations, not including three units in the pharmacy and one in the photo department). The last store went live in late 2008, bringing the POS count up to approximately 50,000 units chain-wide.

The rollout is credited for helping the chain reduce its carbon footprint. More specifically, the move to a POS system that consumes less energy, thus emitting less carbon dioxide, has helped CVS reduce its carbon footprint by 4.4%. Auger declined to pinpoint how much the POS system contributed to this statistic.

The chain is now applying a similar power management process beyond the front end. Besides using a dashboard to monitor power consumption of its HVAC systems and lighting, CVS is also using the practice in its data center to manage power consumption among traditional servers.

Green Screens

In its quest for a more energy-efficient front end, CVS Caremark considered every aspect of power consumption, including emissions from POS terminals’ screens. The drug store chain plans to cut power consumption from screens with a pseudo screen saver that shuts down inactive screens after 15 minutes.

“This is different than traditional screen-saver technology because this prevents excessive burning of bulbs,” said Raymond Auger, VP retail systems, CVS Caremark, Woonsocket, R.I. “It is a concept that helps the bulbs last longer, while cutting power consumption.”

Auger planned to test the technology in July. By working alongside Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, CVS is the vendor’s test case for the technology. If it is pleased with results, IBM plans to add the solution as a base product within its 700 series point-of-sale solution.

“We expect the concept to reduce power consumption across the POS fleet by 40%,” Auger predicted.

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