Founded in 1898, Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society is a farmer-owned co-operative society which serves the community. It has operations spread across eight different locations and covers three business divisions: agri, dairy and home/garden. The organisation, which has a proud and long history, is dedicated to the growth of local business as well as the delivery of outstanding customer service.
Having been in existence for more than 100 years, the networks and communications at each of the eight sites were installed independently, making each location a communications island with a wide variety of different technologies in use. While unified communication systems were enabling other businesses to streamline their methods for sharing information, improve productivity levels and reduce costs, the unconnected systems at Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society were an administrative nightmare. Not only were staff dependent on landline and mobile phone networks to make calls, the legacy equipment was subject to increasing support costs and involved the management of multiple support contracts, adding to the complexity of the situation.
James Casey, Head of IT, Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society, says: “The software and tools that we were using had a negative impact on the productivity of and communication between staff members. This also affected our service delivery, as well as our bottom line due to the costs incurred for equipment repair and upkeep. That’s not to mention the increasingly competitive nature of the retail industry and the high standards expected by customers.”
Over the years, the needs of consumers and communities have significantly evolved, alongside the trends in agriculture and rural Ireland. As well as increasing demand, there is now a strong commitment to local produce. Moreover, customers want better quality and great value. This is something that Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society has prided itself on delivering over the years and its aim is to maintain the co-operative vision of better farming, better business and better living to its members and their families. This requires the provision of the best produce and expert advice, both of which rely on the organisation’s workforce, resources and operations.
The society engaged with Logicalis, a Cisco Gold partner in Ireland, who proposed the optimum solution based on the specific and unique requirements of Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society. “It was clear that we needed to simplify their networks and modernise their communications environment, so we deployed a number of Cisco solutions including the Meraki cloud managed network solution and centralised Collaborations system,” explains John Flynn, Logicalis Ireland. “The solution standardised the systems being used across the different locations. We also deployed a centralised Unified Communications system at the Thurles HQ site, to which we connected the branch sites using the Meraki Cloud managed LAN and WAN environment.”
The Logicalis Ireland team advised Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society throughout the entire process, from installation to connection, and the benefits of the digital transformation have been immediate. Not only can different sites communicate and collaborate more effectively because of the Cisco Meraki cloud managed network, the savings have been evident. As well as removing the expense of calls between branches, the support costs have been dramatically reduced as the team no longer has to consult multiple providers for the maintenance of the separate systems.
The solution provided by Logicalis Ireland has also reduced the number of physical ISDN circuits required at each branch, whilst the cloud-managed network provides Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society with greater visibility over the devices and applications being used on the network. This drastically reduces the troubleshooting time invested by the IT department, allowing them to focus more on delivering other business benefits.
Due to this more effective approach in terms of resources and the team’s time, the business operates much more efficiently and can thus deliver a higher level of customer service. This, in turn, enhances the customer experience and boosts the company’s profitability potential. Furthermore, the systems provided can support additional business growth and expansion which would see the company reaching a wider customer base.
Casey explains: “Before, each of the systems were individual so when something went wrong, we’d be taking screenshots and emailing each other constantly. That’s no longer the case. The unified system means that there is more transparency and visibility. Everyone is working on the same system at the same time.
“As well as providing an overall picture of all locations, which enables us to identify problems much quicker, we can address them faster. Moreover, Logicalis Ireland can log onto the cloud-driven system, which performs more effectively, and support when necessary.”
At the heart of the Meraki solution sits the Meraki MX Firewall which provides both connectivity and security services for the entire infrastructure. Through the use of Advanced Security licensing, Centenary Thurles are able to be the best solution in terms of performance and security while keeping the costs manageable.
The Meraki dashboard offers a single-pane of glass for both network operations, fault isolation and analysis as well as security visibility and investigation.
The infrastructure refresh is only the first stage of Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society’s digital transformation. Logicalis Ireland has specified another solution that incorporates NetApp storages integrated with new HP services with VMware 6.5 virtualisation software.
The team also continues to deliver operational support to both the HQ and branch network of Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society, including the management and support of the server and storage infrastructure. In addition, technical expertise is provided for individual projects.
“The ongoing support that we have had from Logicalis Ireland has been outstanding and reflective of the longstanding relationship that we’ve had with them. We are happy with the benefits that we have enjoyed from the first stage of our digital transformation journey and look forward to further future improvements,” reveals Casey.
John Flynn, Service Delivery Manager, Logicalis Ireland, adds: “It’s great to see an indigenous business grow and develop. We are delighted to see how the application of developments in technology over the years has allowed them to grow and to better meet the needs of their customers.
“The new solutions that we have installed also mean that the Centenary Thurles Co-operative Society can expand further without having to worry about the capabilities of their communications and IT systems. In other words, the systems have not only helped to overcome the obstacles of the past but make the organisation fit for the future too.”
The Meraki solution supports zero-touch provisioning for new Access Points allowing for fast deployment with consistent and secure configuration. The dashboard gives real-time visibility of new devices as well as the state of the network.
The Meraki solution is future proofed through constant delivery of new features and modules offering Centenary Thurles an increased ROI as well as permanently improving controls in the dynamic infrastructure and security environment.