Progressive Grocer magazine reviewed some exciting technology on display at this year’s NRF focused on solving out-of-stocks once and for all. In a feature article this month, writer Abby Kleckler highlighted several solutions for detection, including shelf-scanning robots. Her article argues that OOS are becoming more problematic and more prominent, which makes them more experience-robbing than in the past. The advent of ecommerce as a viable sales channel is intensifying this effect.
Some of these aisle-cruising robot detectives look pretty slick, but they are built around “detect-and-remediate” processes. At Itasca Retail, we believe a solution deployed after the order is sent has little chance of truly solving the problem. Take an out-of-stock on the shelf recognized by one of the new breed of scanning robots for example: If the product isn’t in the store’s backroom (i.e. not correctly ordered in the first place), the robot just detected an unsolvable problem. Who would sign-up for that? We prefer a “forecast-to-prevent” process (computer-generated ordering) that ensures the product is in the store in the first place.
Robot detectives are this year’s shiny new object and therefore seem desirable. And even though we share a bit of Gordon Wade’s sentiment that, “Robots are quite ignorant; humans are much smarter,” we also see potential synergy between them and CGO. There are situations where the perpetual inventory levels need to be updated during the day in a store. A robot could really help with those. If it recognized a low inventory level or an “out” on an item, it could easily trigger a count or inquiry on that item and update the perpetual inventory if necessary. In the meantime, the human in the department could continue their conversation with the customer they were helping.
Here’s an excerpt. You can download your copy of the article below.
Grocery is largely behind other online entities when it comes to inventory. An up-to-the-minute perpetual inventory is far from standard for most grocers. “Perpetual inventory in grocery has historically been a redheaded stepchild, maybe necessary evil, depending how you want to look at it, in the sense that grocers want to be able to do it, but there’s reasons that it’s difficult,” says Jason Wirl, director of solutions consulting at Itasca Retail. “One [reason] is just the human factor of it. Often, there’s lots of turnover, especially part-time, of course, in grocery. Then there’s also that in certain areas of the store, it’s easier than others.” Direct store delivery, perishables and prepared foods are no longer off the table when it comes to computer-generated ordering (CGO). If employees do the upfront legwork that they’re already doing with inventory — and they do it well — CGO is the next logical step, which saves employees time by no longer requiring them to review each order line item by line item.
Itasca’s solution makes keeping PI up-to-date, dare we say, ridiculously simple, and within the tasks they currently execute today and the labor hours allocated. Or, “hire” a robot…your choice.
Key Takeaways in Article
Technology can help grocers with real-time data, seeing what’s currently in stock, forecasting demand, generating orders and ultimately improving the shopper experience.
Time-saving computer-generated ordering is enabling grocers to keep pace with rival online entities.