Are the Systems Really Connected?

This sounds like a stupid question. Of course the systems are connected…..right?

Well a lot of the time its actually not true. The systems may be kind of connected and they are definitely connected to the overall system but the information is not actually flowing the way we want it to. Or the way that it was envisioned to. Let me give you an example.

Space Management Systems are connected but the only access to the information are the people creating the planograms. That’s ok, but what about the others that are making decisions about the planograms or that may impact them. Category wants to see the flow and the products, new items need to be listed and be available in the warehouses. DSD suppliers need to know that the items are now listed so that they can provide them to the stores, CAO (Computer Assisted Ordering) systems need to have the items added so that they show up in their systems. New planograms need to be sent to stores for the right stores and the right size sections with the right assortments, Etc.

So the question is, how many times in just that one scenario are we having to intervene manually? I can tell you for sure that there are systems out there that require intervention manually at every one of those points just mentioned. We may be manually sending pdf files to category, planogram pdf files to the stores and many times, they need to figure out which one is their store’s planogram. We usually send a manual note to the buyers, and also a verification note that may be behind because of workload to the DSD suppliers. Removal of old items aren’t streamlined and pricing isn’t set.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Imagine a world that is able to automate from a simple change with a listing for all the planograms to be flagged for change, buyers properly notified with a sku to remove as well, timelines that are automated for executing price reductions, notes to vendors for pick up of old items or to ramp up delivery for new items etc. This has been possible for sure since the late 1990’s. I say for sure because we were already doing it. CAO systems were being automatically updated with delist and new item summaries being sent to the stores and whoever else may need to know.

Integration of systems can be done. The efficiencies in first to market strategies, network communication and reduction in error rates gives large return on the investment. You can also automate reports to give quick analysis of old vs new planograms at 4 or 6 weeks to ensure that the decisions that were made were correct. Auditing and review work can be done to make it so that if changes in planograms for either flow or assortment are required, we can have the stores make the changes, communicate the changes with an FM gun and have the planograms automatically updated in the database.

Technology can do amazing things, but just like developing a house with plumbing, electric, walls, foundation, house tech etc, you need an overall plan and method to get what you actually expected.

How can we do that? We start with the end result that is actually wanted. And then we actually determine what tools we have. And then, we build the plan. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it has to be efficient, effective and meet the needs of the different business units.

I have previously been part of having done this successfully in both Canada and the US for both grocers and for non food retailers. And the difference that it makes is incredible. To the business customers, the stores and the store customers.