It’s the age of big data. Enormous amounts of bits and bytes are being stored in endless rows of servers in colossal data centers located throughout the world. Executives and business owners are using this unprecedented wealth of information to manage their operations with unprecedented accuracy. And, of course, these managers are using this data to automate workflows and processes for inventory management, replenishment and pricing.
Or not. As reported in FoodBev Media, it appears that the typical manager of a retail shop is pretty much guessing.
Blue Yonder, a retail tech company, surveyed 750 grocery managers and directors in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France. Forty-six percent of those directors said replenishment of their inventories is a manual process and a further 46 percent say that even when the process is automated it can be overridden by managers, suggesting a reluctance to rely on automation. The most disturbing metric: 48 percent said they use a “gut feeling” when making inventory decisions.
The study also found a quarter of grocers feel they are not delivering at the speed that their customers require–not a great sign in an age where customers are becoming more and more demanding for speed and convenience and would have little patience for stores running out of stock.
Losing customers is one risk of not automating. But there are other costs. For example, according to Blue Yonder’s research report 4 million tons of food is wasted each year by the grocery industry in the U.K. alone. That translates into a big cost in what is historically a low-margin business. A cost that could be reduced with more automation and more informed pricing, particularly for older or damaged items.
Adding even more pressure to the typical small grocer is this week’s rumors that Amazon it is entering the brick-and-mortar grocery business. You can bet the managers at Amazon will not be making their inventory decisions based on a “gut feel.” They’ll be using data and automation. Lots of it. (Chief Executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post).
“Only those retailers who understand the importance of advanced machine learning algorithms and big data will survive and thrive grocery retail into the future.” said Michael Feindt, Blue Yonder’s founder in a company’s blog post.