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Mobile IBM i apps redefine Caprabo’s operations


A major Spanish supermarket chain is mobilising its IBM i-driven back office with the help of ASNA.

If you’ve ever been to the Catalonia or Navarra regions, the chances are that you’ve shopped in a Caprabo store. Part of the even larger Eroski Group, the company operates 320 shops serving more than 220,000 customers a day. A System i model 570 running IBM i 6.1, SAP retail and finance and a range of in-house applications sits at the centre of operations.

Caprabo was an internet groceries pioneer in Spain and the first to offer a mobile shopping app. But while it had a very strong outward web presence, back office functions had become too centralised and some workflows were overly dependent on Excel spreadsheets.

To solve this, the Caprabo team sketched out a plan for a new suite of i-based mobile applications. The new apps would be used by staff to improve order management and sales tracking and reduce product loss.

But although the firm had some skilled RPG programmers, it was felt that there wasn’t time for them to learn the JavaScript/HTML/CSS mobile stack or languages such as Objective C or Java.

The company already had a relationship with ASNA which is nowadays headquartered in Sant Cugat del Vallès, north of Barcelona. The two have worked together since creating a web-based warehouse management application, fifteen years ago. ASNA introduced Caprabo’s developers to its Mobile RPG tool that lets programmers create smartphone and tablet apps with RPG ILE.

Caprabo’s developers were clearly up to the RPG-side of the equation. But given the need to deliver the new apps quickly, ASNA’s services team helped with the creation of the user interfaces and provide general mobile design guidance.

Their first collaboration with a proof-of-concept app that showed real-time online sales results to sales managers.

In a report on the ASNA website, Caprabo’s IT and logistics director, Daniel Muñoz Champel, says: “It made us realise that not only could mobile apps be built by our team – with a little ASNA help – but also that that mobile apps are a powerful tool for redefining employee workflows in the enterprise.”

The project moved on to replacing an inventory management Excel spreadsheet distributed once a day to 300 stores. Caprabo’s developers created an alternative RPG back-end and ASNA’s team once again helped with the mobile UI. The new mobile app replaced the spreadsheets and now reports inventory management info to 300 users, updated every 30 minutes.

Early this year, Caprabo started work on a much wider mobile back-office mobile system. Written responsively to work equally well on smartphones, tablets and desktop browsers, the app is still in testing mode (you can see a sample iPad screenshot below) but is reportedly getting good feedback from beta users.

Order management in a subfile with multiple record selection and options
Order management in a subfile with multiple record selection and options

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