Supermarket chain Safeway is to move much of its product development process online, after the success of a pilot portal project which has reduced the time to shelf of products by three weeks.
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The company, which develops or enhances around 2,000 products a year, rolled out the web-based system, from Ramesys, in October last year, initially, to improve the process surrounding the labelling of its own-brand products.
It has already begun trials of the Sirod (Specifications, Information, Records, Origination and Development) system for tracking the new product development (NPD) process.
Paul Raynor, head of analytical and quality services at Safeway, said, “We are adding new modules at the moment, with a long-term goal of moving all product development communication online.”
The Sirod system, designed specifically for Safeway by Ramesys, has allowed the retailer and its food suppliers to collaborate over a secure network helping it to comply with the Food Safety Act , for example.
“With the old system it was easy to get things wrong, which could be critical when you are talking about peanut allergies and the like,” said Raynor. “The new system allows us to gather and distribute data for labels much more quickly, speeding up the whole process.”
Under the previous system, suppliers would have to send information about recipes and ingredients to be included on labels using a disc-based system, which would then be uploaded into a database by Safeway.
This system was “causing staff a lot of grief” to Safeway users, because its unreliability resulted in much reworking, adding weeks to a process which should have taken days, Raynor said.
“We were desperate to get the system in place because the old process was restricting the number of new products we could get out.”
Last year, Computer Weekly revealed that Sainsbury's was aiming to reduce by a third the time it takes to get a new product on to its supermarket shelves, by moving the entire product development process to the internet.
The supermarket giant, which develops or enhances 3,000 different product lines a year, said moving the process online will help to eliminate the complexity that means creating a new range can take up to 12 months.