The following is an extract from a LinkedIn article written by our Technical Leader, Martin Petersen.
The IT upgrade
Cashmaster has partnered with many multi-nationals as they have upgraded their IT systems and subsequent cash handling processes. Over the years, we have grown to understand the challenges these IT project teams face as multi-location, multi-till businesses, often with legacy IT systems that must remain operational. Whether the IT upgrade has come about due to an efficiency drive, the equipment becoming obsolete and no longer supported, or because it has become too expensive to patch and maintain, it is always an exciting challenge for our software team to work on integrating our device and delivering future-proofed solutions which will continue to meet the needs of the customer as they evolve.
The Project Brief
When one of our long-standing supermarket clients decided to upgrade its cash office IT equipment across their estate, we worked closely with them to ensure their cash handling operations continued to deliver, and improve on, the time-savings they had come to rely on and to add a layer of future proofing into their cash management systems. The customer was using the advanced model of the previous generation of Cashmaster cash counters, the Omega 230, which already gave them a solution which was customised to them, integrated to their POS and transferred their till count data to their POS via serial port.
Critically they needed a solution that was compatible with their new thin client platform, which didn't support serial communication. Having committed to upgrading their systems, they also wanted to ensure the technology was up-to-date and had longevity built-in.
We established a technical project team and worked closely with the client's IT specialists. The supermarket involved its UK and offshore IT teams, and we kept the project on track via regular communications. We identified the communications methods that were compatible with our devices and the new thin client system the client was rolling out across their estate. With a robust, ethernet communication protocol at the centre of the customer needs, they selected the Cashmaster One Max as the best hardware platform to meet their needs.
With an agreed specification and a device chosen, it was a case of 'let the development and testing begin’. Cashmaster and the supermarket IT team shared development tasks, supporting each other to ensure the devices communicated reliably.
During milestone review meetings with the supermarket's cross-functional group, and we gained insights into small problems in the process and areas where there was room to improve existing cash handling procedures with further automation.
An essential requirement was that the product met stringent network security requirements. To ensure the technology would not place the new infrastructure at risk, a specialist team subjected the devices to penetration testing under controlled conditions, before connecting them to the live store systems. We passed the testing successfully, which may in part be due to our proprietary, embedded operating system, which is the foundation of all Cashmaster devices. Retaining full in-house control of our operating system rather than utilising the conventional alternatives of Windows or Linux (which can be more susceptible to exploitation) is a core tenet of Cashmaster’s business strategy.
An Agile Approach
With initial development work complete, the next step involved trialing the newly configured Cashmaster One Max in-store along with the new IT system. The success of this approach was influenced by a hugely supportive Project Manager at the supermarket who facilitated direct access to the cash office staff (the end users) who helped troubleshoot small issues and further optimise the functionality, which was then delivered via software updates and released with each iterative firmware version.
The Final Solution
The Cashmaster One Max is our flagship and our most connected device. It incorporates a wealth of features and functionality, including touch screen technology and Ethernet network connectivity. Ethernet enables much faster data transfer (1000 x faster than via the serial port) and the large touchscreen and intuitive UI results in fewer user errors. The device was configured to replicate the Cashmaster Omega 230, and we have leveraged touchscreen technology to create a solution that is not only familiar but also has incremental functionality, which removes even more manual processing, and it is faster to operate and faster to 'learn' for new staff. This approach completely personalised the end product and excited the client, who could see the immediate and long term benefits it brought.
An outcome for all
For Cashmaster, this was an exciting project for our team, which allowed them to exercise their creative muscles, build a strong relationship with the client team - and benefit from the boost to productivity and morale, that comes with positive feedback and a happy customer.
For the supermarket client, the Cashmaster One Max, with its wired Ethernet connection for data transfer, ensures a fast, secure and reliable transport mechanism for all cash count data. It also future-proofs the cash handling process with its modern platform, configuration capabilities and upgradable software. The result is our client now has a highly optimised, efficient, automated cash handling solution which can be flexed, adapted and enhanced over the lifetime of the product to keep in line with future process and technology changes.