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H-E-B engaged TEKsystems to install updated PIN pads and decommission its legacy point-of-sale systems across 266 retail locations throughout Texas.
H-E-B is a grocery company with more than 350 stores in Texas and Mexico. The retailer sells across a variety of product categories, including meat, deli, seafood, produce, bakery, health and beauty, and beer and wine. H-E-B has been a client of TEKsystems for more than 15 years.
Retailers are increasingly feeling pressure to adopt EMV technology across their point-of-sale (POS) terminals. EMV (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®), also referred to as “chip and PIN”, has become the global standard for safe and secure debit and credit card payments. The smart-chip technology uses payment instruments, such as credit cards or mobile phones, with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data. The chip-enabled payment card is more secure than the alternative magnetic strip card because it supports dynamic authentication and mitigates potential copying of confidential cardholder data and reproduction of counterfeit cards.
“BuySecure,” an executive order signed by President Obama in Oct. 2014, helped generate momentum with EMV adoption across U.S. retailers1. Previously, counterfeit fraud would be absorbed by the card issuers themselves as opposed to retailers. With BuySecure, the liability has shifted and retailers who have not transitioned to chip-enabled technology by Oct. 1, 2015, will be financially responsible for card fraud that could have otherwise been prevented.
Credit card fraud and breaches in security have gradually become a major concern for U.S. consumers, merchants and card issuers alike. Although fears of fraudulent or counterfeit credit card use have always been relevant—and many retailers have proactively adopted more secure POS technology—the BuySecure initiative creates a sense of urgency among retailers to tighten the security of their payment terminals.
In 2011, H-E-B, a regional supermarket chain, sought to introduce new POS technology across its stores. Their existing card readers and terminals were antiquated and vulnerable to security risks. For this POS modernization effort, approximately 20 to 25 card readers at each of the client’s then 266 stores needed to be configured and installed during normal operational hours.
H-E-B required deployment support from an IT services provider that could properly install more than 5,000 new PIN pads at every retail location throughout Texas. Additionally, it was crucial that the partner of choice could securely decommission the legacy equipment because of the level of potential risks the old card readers posed. For example, any person who knew about the upgrade and had the technical ability to hack into the outdated equipment could gain access to prior transactions that may have occurred on the device. The legacy card readers contained confidential information that could be breached by a hacker (e.g., customer credit card information, H-E-B banking and security information). Although there had been no security breaches with the old equipment, H-E-B had an urgency to proactively upgrade to a more secure technology and decommission the antiquated card readers, given the magnitude of risk that less secure POS systems / card readers offered. The old hardware was also no longer compliant with the security standards of the Payment Card Industry (PCI), further heightening H-E-B’s urgency to upgrade.
The client required this project to be completed within 12 weeks in order to ensure the new, secure PIN pads were active by end of year, prior to the start of the busy holiday season. Maintaining consistent quality of service to H-E-B end users was also a critical priority.
Having conducted numerous PIN pad and POS activities for other clients in the past, including a large consumer packaged goods retailer as well as a national grocery retailer, TEKsystems’ Technology Deployment practice proposed a three-phased approach to complete the transition of the adequate systems to expedite the roll out of the secure payment system.
Phase 1: Project Planning and Pilot
We would document the necessary technical processes, develop a plan and conduct a pilot of the upgrade tasks prior to engaging in the full scale deployment. A planning session between TEKsystems and H-E-B would be held to ensure our teams are aligned on project scope and objectives and to establish key project details.
Phase 2: Project Plan Implementation
TEKsystems would provide the project management, coordination and the technical resources required to optimally complete this deployment effort to securely decommission legacy card readers and properly install new equipment.
Phase 3: Project Completion and Close
Upon finishing the deployment across all retail locations, TEKsystems would deliver all documentation to H-E-B for formal closeout of the project, such as budget and issue reports. Throughout the project, we would also provide status reports concerning the work performed and our progress compared to the plan.
TEKsystems offered experience supporting other clients’ PIN pad and POS initiatives, proving we had the capabilities and expertise to effectively manage H-E-B’s deployment effort. Additionally, through our long-term partnership with H-E-B, we had cultivated strong relationships with client leadership and they trusted our ability to understand their needs and complete the goals they set out to achieve. For these reasons, TEKsystems was selected to support H-E-B’s POS modernization goals.
Based on our recommended solution, TEKsystems successfully executed the POS engagement—installing a total of 5,441 PIN pads across 266 locations, including a pilot exercise in San Antonio to refine our processes for scaling the deployment.
Our team planned and documented the deployment requirements, procedures and technical processes necessary to ensure a smooth delivery throughout the project. We established and maintained the optimal installation schedule, in close coordination with H-E-B to ensure in-time delivery of the equipment necessary for installation at each scheduled location. TEKsystems provided project management, coordination of the logistics and the talent needed to achieve the outcomes required. We also facilitated communications with management at each retail location.
Our team was comprised of a total of 11 mid-level PC technicians with strong customer service skills. With the exception of a few of the larger retail locations that required two technicians, each technician was assigned their own route based on geographical proximity, and worked individually at each store. The card readers were first configured in a central warehouse. They were then distributed and installed at each location. The machines being replaced at the customer service counters were the most difficult replacements because of the complex cables that needed to be managed. As such, these were the first devices replaced each day.
Because ensuring the security of the legacy card readers was a critical priority, TEKsystems enforced several security measures and coordinated a chain of custody for legacy equipment in a secure location. In fact, one of the directives for our technicians was that the decommissioned PIN pads could never be more than 15 feet away from them. Technicians were responsible for placing every decommissioned PIN pad into a shopping cart that would follow them station to station during each job. At the end of each job, all legacy assets were accounted for and secured by TEKsystems, and placed in a secure location as specified by H-E-B personnel.
Throughout the deployment, maintaining consistent quality of service for the end users (i.e., check-out managers, cashiers and shoppers) was essential. We worked with client management ahead of time to ensure proper coordination and that retail lines remained open during the installations; we had a plan to cap the check-out lanes that were backing up, so end users could filter to other lanes. This helped mitigate potential significant lane delays and backups, thereby ensuring end users maintained timely, consistent service quality and a normal overall check-out experience.
TEKsystems tracked and reported on the total number of PIN pads installed in each store; we also tracked the disposal of all decommissioned devices for security purposes. Daily and weekly reports were provided to H-E-B that detailed all installation activities, including a continuous weekly summation of current impact on the client’s budget. As a result of our efficient processes, project coordination and high-quality technicians, the project was completed on time and under budget by approximately 2.5 percent.
One challenge outside of TEKsystems’ and H-E-B’s control was the potential lack of equipment, particularly the mounting brackets. TEKsystems was required to install new mounting brackets that fit the updated PIN pad hardware at each POS location. An outside third-party vendor shipped the mounting equipment directly to H-E-B and on several occasions it did not arrive on time, and as a result, our technician would have to make a second trip. The technician would contact our project manager to determine if another store on their route could be completed that day instead. And since all routes were not being run simultaneously, the location that did not have the necessary equipment available would be rescheduled for a later date. Rescheduling did not hurt our timeline because every route was not active every day and so the schedule could flex to accommodate the availability and arrival of the mounting equipment.
TEKsystems has a strong background in delivering PIN pad and POS support to various clients, and this experience lent itself to this initiative for H-E-B. For example, TEKsystems managed the replacement of nearly 20,000 PIN pads across 1,100 locations on behalf of a large consumer packaged goods retailer. We also performed POS upgrades at 250 nationwide locations for one of the largest U.S. supermarket retailers. On behalf of a large restaurant chain, TEKsystems installed and de-installed POS equipment to include kitchen display systems, monitors, printers and servers across 900 locations throughout the U.S. We also supported a replacement project for POS, workstations, printers, server and rack at nearly 600 locations of an automotive retailer. For a major company in the hospitality space, TEKsystems upgraded the client’s legacy property management system technology across approximately 3,600 locations. All of this experience brought us firsthand knowledge to support H-E-B.
Because of the geographic scope of this engagement, scheduling would be critical to our ability to deliver on time and within budget. TEKsystems collaborated with H-E-B to ensure we designed the optimal schedule, taking into account third-party delivery of additional equipment such as the mounting brackets. We were committed to the schedule, adhered to it as best as we could, and flexed it when needed to accommodate shifts beyond our control.
In order to minimize disruption of the client’s retail operations on a day-to-day basis, TEKsystems maintained open lines of communication and coordination with our points of contact at each site. We interfaced with local store managers to keep them informed of our schedule and allow for a seamless transition from legacy to new equipment.
1 Obama signs “BuySecure” initiative to speed EMV adoption in the U.S.; Oct. 19, 2014