Auchan France

At a Glance

  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced travel between store locations

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The Auchan Group, an innovative and secure approach to video conference.

A high level of demands upstream, followed by an elaborate organization for the solution installed, resulting in an unquestionable success of the video conferencing solution, with both employees and governance.

Auchan is second largest distribution group in France, ranking eleventh largest in the world. This across its five businesses—hypermarkets, supermarkets, real estate, banking and e-commerce.The group is present in 13 countries, employs 240,000 staff and in 2008 posted profits of €48.3 billion.
With installations throughout the world, in Europe, and in Asia, the Auchan Group serves 1.4 billion customers (receipts) in its 490 hypermarkets, 738 supermarkets, 1487 convenience stores, 289 shopping malls and its banking subsidiaries in 10 countries.

Video Conferencing - Responding to a Specific Need

Large-scale distribution is characterised by extremely fast product rotation, whether for reasons of safety and hygiene (food), or to follow developments in fashion and therefore demand (clothing).

This rotation becomes more and more difficult to manage effectively as the number of commercial sites increases. An increasing number of references need to be dealt with whilst also minimising stock levels. There is therefore a need for just-in-time production flow, optimized deliveries, restocking and exchanges between stores.

To meet these objectives, frequent meetings need to be organised between the different store and department managers. The synergies program involves periodically gathering together all the participants in a particular sector, in order to discuss, exchange ideas and take action concerning stock levels, orders, sales, promotions. These meetings are supposed to gather all the participants together at a single site.
Organising these meetings, having everyone concerned in the same room became a challenge.
These meetings were expensive, and time consuming, and with Auchan’s ambition to reduce its CO2 emissions, a solution needed to be found.
Auchan first introduced audio conferencing which would prove not sufficient. The Group’s Board decided to explore other options, and launching a large-scale program for video conferencing solution equipment fast became an obvious requirement. This would minimise inter-site travel and improve responsiveness.

High Expectations

The Auchan Group issued five key criteria in its call to tender for this visual communication solution: performance, scalability, interoperability, quality and ease of use.

Having best met the criteria set out in the call to tender, Polycom® was selected. The Group was particularly impressed by the redundancy of its architecture, the attractiveness of its HDX Media Center packaged systems and the quality of its high-definition. The interpersonal skills and the professionalism shown by the manufacturer’s commercial and technical teams and its partners Comiris and G2J were also impressive. “Video conferencing was a clear way forward for the Group and we were attracted by the quality of the media center”, explains Eric Roland, Manager of the Collaboration Department within Auchan’s ICT division.

Detailed, Effective Organisation

The key feature in this success story is the program’s innovative approach to the everyday management and organisation of all these meetings.

Video conferencing systems were installed in existing meeting rooms. For quality purposes, specific directives were sent to local managers for preparing the room prior to the arrival and installation of the video systems. Everything from lighting and curtains to the positioning of furniture and soundproofing was considered to ensure the comfort of participants taking part in video conferences. It was decided that rooms containing video conferencing equipment would be allocated for use as follows: on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays video conferencing meetings are given priority, and the rooms are free to be used for any other local meetings on the other days of the week.

These video conferencing meetings are wellplanned. A centralised, internally developed tool enables reservations to be made at least 24 hours in advance, so the partner has sufficient time to prepare the automatic launch of the video conference. The tool allows the organiser to access details concerning all the rooms at all the sites that they wish to invite, thus making it simple for anyone to organise a meeting.

This joint departmental work takes place at regional level. The Auchan Group’s hypermarket business in France covers five regions, with each region containing approximately thirty hypermarkets. At present, not all of the stores are equipped, but distribution has taken into account distances between sites, in order to facilitate meetings taking place at the nearest equipped site.

The meetings are therefore multipoint, with around eight sites connected in each session. Another innovative aspect of the program is that the Auchan Group is using an external service provider, G2J, to administer the infrastructure equipment that it has acquired. This provider manages the reserved slots, knows which sites need to be connected for each reducing the number of issues (who to call, locating the remote control etc.). Staff arriving in the room see the other sites on the screen, without having to worry about doing anything other than switching on the microphone and positioning themselves appropriately in front of the camera.

A Complete Success

After a period of adaptation and a number of months in operation, an internal satisfaction survey was carried out, receiving more than 300 responses.

The results met the Board’s expectations: 90% of participants believed that video conferencing was effective and ensured that meetings were better organised. These results confirm the impact of video conferencing within the Auchan Group and are encouraging its increased use.

Video conferencing Incorporated into Governance

Video conferencing is now used as a governance tool.

At Auchan, there is a strong desire to increase the number of video conferences, which has already risen. Management requests are sometimes issued and the occupancy rate of the rooms is measured, to increase video conferencing where a need is recognised at a particular site.
The Chief Executive used video conferencing to address a large group of staff when the solution was launched within Auchan France.
Video conferencing is progressively being used for meetings involving national managers, who at present have to travel to Lille, in north of France, where the headquarters are located, on a regular basis. This is once again enabling savings in terms of travel costs, but also gains in productivity and reactivity. Each Chief Executive is able to have a number of their staff attend these meetings with them now that they take place on site.

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