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Baker Saves Dough

PANERA BREAD, headquartered in Richmond Heights, Missouri, proclaims as its mission, “A loaf of bread in every arm.” At eateries across the United States and Canada, the company showcases the art of bread making as well as healthy prepared meals. Panera Bread, like every other enterprise, seeks ways to cut costs to stay competitive. Recently, the company was able to cook up savings for its alarm systems via IP data transmission.

The company explored reducing the cost of the around-the-clock alarm systems in its 538 company-owned stores, explains Jeff Levitt, CPP, Panera’s senior manager of asset protection. The eateries each have “a standard package that covers all perimeter doors, as well as hold-up buttons,” he says.

Alarm signals were sent over landlines to a central monitoring site using dedicated phone lines. Each landline cost Panera an average of $30 to $50 per month, but some lines cost much more.

As with all alarm signals transmitted over landlines, storms and other natural and man-made disasters can disrupt transmission. The telephone lines could also be cut by robbers who wanted to remove the security alarm before staging a hold-up. “While we haven’t had that happen, the possibility of it has been a concern,” Levitt says.

Levitt talked with Panera’s integrator and alarm monitoring service, Universal Atlantic Systems (UAS), about these problems and the company’s desire to cut costs. “We ended up discussing the possibility of IP transmission,” to UAS’s central station in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Right away, Levitt says, “I could see that there could be really big savings on the phone lines.”

At the time of this discussion in the autumn of 2008, Honeywell did not have an IP transmission interface for existing alarm panels or a panel model with built-in IP technology. By the start of 2009, however, the company did, and Panera moved quickly to install the technology.

Beginning in March, UAS started adding Honeywell 7847i IP Communicators to the existing Honeywell Vista 20P alarm control panels in the Panera stores. All new Panera stores will use the Honeywell model Vista-21IP alarm panel, which includes built-in IP-communication ability.

“We converted the existing panels for less than $600 per location,” he says. These equipment and installation costs are balanced against an estimated $1 million savings over the next five years on the cost of dedicated phone lines.

Levitt says that with the new IP-transmission system, there is “zero operating difference” for employees. “There is no difference in what the employees key on the [alarm panel] key pad, so there’s no need for retraining.”

According to Levitt, “The big benefit, other than the monetary one, is that the system is much more secure with IP transmission. Using a phone line, if someone cuts it, the alarm company has no way of knowing that; if a store sends an alarm via a hold-up button, it wouldn’t go through, and they wouldn’t know it.’

By contrast, because the new system is IP-based, it has a polling signal, that confirms the unit’s functionality. If a store loses communications now, “the alarm company...will make calls to the location or dispatch police,” Levitt states.

Thus far, the system has functioned as intended. “By the end of this year, we will have every location transferred over,” Levitt says.

(For more information: Honeywell, phone: 800/573-0154; Universal Atlantic Systems, phone: 800/421-6661;; e-mail:[email protected].)