Kunara Organic Marketplace has grown from a niche store into a corporate business, with plans to expand nationally over the next few years. In the past 18 months, Kunara has experienced a 40 percent growth, with the implementation of three new business areas: a garden centre and café, the natural food store, and a wholesale/manufacturing warehouse.

Natural Foods Manager Ryan McLintock says these new value add aspects have contributed to the rapid growth and increased employment opportunities, with staff numbers jumping from 55 to 160+.

“Over the past year we have been consolidating our supply chain, manufacturing and packaging of our goods and increasing the wholesale side of our business. We have also been focusing more on our systems and technology to enhance our operations.”

The business started 25 years ago as the Natural Food Store and changed its name to Kunara Organic Marketplace in September 2013.

“The Sunshine Coast is our home. The business has been built from here and has a strong base of loyal customers,” Ryan said.

“Our advantage is that we’re located in a food basin, with access to a large variety of fresh food and produce and manufactured goods. We’re also close to the highway which makes us more accessible.

“One of the challenges is that there’s a bigger population in Brisbane and other city areas, but it’s more of an education process down there; the Sunshine Coast is more alternative and aligned with organic food.”

Kunara has invested in new technologies to support its multiple businesses, which have improved efficiency by increasing productivity and reducing expenses.

“After trialling a full enterprise software package we have reverted back to a number of specialist programs that each have their individual strengths in the retail, warehouse, manufacturing, and hospitality field as well as payroll and budgeting systems,” Ryan said.

The company’s streamlined HR approach now incorporates fingerprint scanners which allow staff to accept rostered shifts and access their payslips, as well as providing a reporting function to management.

“The fingerprint scanners only measure the distance between the lines of fingerprint, so it’s not photographed. This system allows staff to scan in and out of their rostered shifts without the need for security numbers, so it’s more private,” Ryan said.

“We used to have 10-12 different departments, with 10-12 supervisors all running rosters. So much of the time was consumed in managing those staff. The system is now automated and managers can process shifts, view wages in alignment with the budget and sales, and measure productivity.

“This has changed the business from being reactive to proactive, because we’re running with a live system which gives us snapshots of where we’re at each week – while running a roster, we can see what it will cost, what rosters are needed, and if anyone has been overscheduled.”

While the new system upgrades have required a lot of change management, Ryan says the new technologies are becoming part of Kunara’s business culture.

“It’s about reassuring staff of the process and making them aware of how the fingerprint scanner works, security and privacy. It’s teaching new behaviours and getting people used to them.”

Other newly-introduced systems include:

  • A magazine, now printed on recycled paper, which is also available electronically on Flipbooks, with links to the website, PDF documents, and YouTube videos.

  • World Smart Retail grocery manager system, using scanner guns which allow staff to check prices, adjust and order stock from the floor, print shelf labels, and write stock off.

  • A new internet provider with dedicated 4G upload and 4G download capability, to support Kunara’s technology and systems, including Toshiba IP phones which work over internet and data, as well as landlines.

“Our next focus is to move into an interactive training environment for staff to provide an online induction and training program. That will be massive step forward for us and our staff,” Ryan said.

“As the technology grows, we’re trying to grow with it and always look ahead. It’s been quite a rocky road for us over the last few years getting all these new systems into place, but sometimes that’s part of the process. There are immense efficiencies and productivity gains that come with it, but project management and implementation are the keys to getting it right.”

Visit Kunara Organic Marketplace: www.kunara.com.au