Optimising for member focus: How innovation and automation can help co-ops put members first

Darragh Fanning, founder and managing director of Celtech Software, explores how innovation and automation can co-ops put their members first… In a competitive trading environment where there are...

Darragh Fanning, founder and managing director of Celtech Software, explores how innovation and automation can co-ops put their members first…

In a competitive trading environment where there are continuing pressures for all co-ops on margin, having a culture of ‘innovation’ and ‘automation’ is absolutely fundamental to future success and business growth.

Retailers need to be able to control costs, and possess a constant focus on reducing, or taking away mundane processes from the store environment wherever feasible. The focus should always be on the customer – and in the co-operative case, members.

If we consider stock management and product lifecycles, there are many opportunities for easing the load and effort required in supporting the day-to-day operational processes within a store.

From our experience, we believe the following provides a few examples of what can be achieved through the intelligent application of technology around the themes of innovation and automation.

Range Review and Reset

Let’s look at the processes around product ranging. Having a co-op store stocked with the very latest products is a key component to keeping the offer relevant to its members and customers.

Darragh Fanning
Darragh Fanning

Typically the product range within a store is reviewed on a regular basis by buyers in collaboration with suppliers.

New products are introduced to replace products which are to be retired. In this situation the ideal scenario is to clear the stock of retiring products just in time for the arrival of the replacement product.

Let’s bring in technology to assist with the automation of this process.

The adoption of a centrally driven ‘product exit management’ solution will help minimise the effort required by staff, by automatically recommending price reductions to clear any residual stock of the retiring products in anticipation of the new product arriving.

Technically, this is achieved by the system forecasting the likely residual stock of the retiring product at a particular ‘reset’ date. This information is based on the historical sales rate of the product. The solution can then recommend an appropriate price reduction which will clear the residual stock by the reset date.

Price Release and Label Management 

With products coming in and others going out, let’s consider what happens at the shelf level within the store. With the introduction of new products and the promotion of existing products, there is a constant flow of new shelf edge labels (SELs) being sent to the stores to be inserted on the shelf in front of the corresponding products.

In the absence of electronic shelf edge labels, this can be a time consuming process for the staff in the stores.

Adopting an ‘advanced price release and label management solution’ which can both optimise the sequence in which SEL labels are printed, and optimising the use of SEL stationery can go a long way to minimise the effort and cost involved in this area. This is achieved by having an ‘intelligent label production engine’ which can intelligently group together, sequence and print labels in an optimum manner, by being tightly integrated with planogram software.

Intelligent Real-Time Hand Held Stock Management Solution

The adoption of an intelligent real-time Hand Held Terminal Stock Management Solution within a store can greatly reduce the effort involved by staff in the task of managing stock.

This includes the ability to:

  • Recommend appropriate price reductions based on the current stock level, sales rate and the remaining shelf-life of short shelf-life products
  • Notify stores of the products to be wasted at the end of their shelf-life
  • Direct stores to undertake stock counts ‘by exception’ based on a rules engine which would include items with negative or zero stock levels, high sales and low stock levels
  • Direct stores to take appropriate action as a result of undertaking ‘gap counts’

Smart Tills

The adoption of ‘Smart Tills’ will reduce the effort and discrepancies in the task of Cash Management within the business.

A ‘Smart Till’  has the ability to know exactly what is in the till at any point of time, and has the ability reconcile this with all the transactions that have been undertaken on the till at any point of time.

If the ‘Smart Till’ is integrated with a real-time POS solution, this also opens up the possibility of having a global real-time view of cash across the whole store estate and any cash variances or losses. Area managers are then informed and empowered to focus on stores where problems potentially exist.

We believe that the most successful retailers are those who consider every aspect of their retail operation to ensure it is as optimised as possible. They question ‘can it be automated?’, ‘what technology can we bring in to do this for us?’, ‘ are we duplicating processes?’ and ultimately ‘is this distracting our focus from the customer?’. The solutions exist to remove many of the manual tasks still performed on a daily basis by co-ops, enabling them to focus on the most important part of their business – their members.

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