The system, based on wireless Lans and rugged handheld devices from Symbol, is designed to integrate in-store information captured by the devices with back-office systems in real time to reduce each store's stocking lead times and create a "just-in-time" supply chain.
Andrew Plews, business project manager for shelf edge computing at Safeway, said the retailer has reduced many replenishment lead times from 48 hours to 24 hours, while out-of-stocks have improved, in some cases by as much as 30%.
"The mobile system allows us to operate a real-time, sales-based ordering system which means we always know where we are in terms of stock levels," he said.
The Symbol PPT 2740 handheld devices are used by Safeway in-store staff for real time stock-keeping and inventory checks, price checking and product searches, said Plews. The devices manage an average of 25,000 stock-keeping units, and deliver the information to Safeway's central IBM DB2 database, he added.
Safeway managers will soon be able to receive delivery arrival notification, alerts about imminent stock outs and shelf-stocking reminders via the Symbol devices, Plews said. The company is also assessing which other business applications can use the mobile system.
"We are looking at incorporating a queue-busting application on to the devices as well as introducing outside selling using the coverage reach of the wireless Lans," he said. "Because the devices are dumb terminals, we can develop new applications in weeks. There is little training needed as each device can be tailored to the user."