Sainsbury's expects to make savings "in the multi-millions" after implementing a new warehouse and distribution software system.
US developer Manhattan Associates last week announced that the retailer would put in the first major European installation of its PkMS package.
Sainsbury's supply chain director Martin White said the range of functionality on the package would allow the retailer to save on the cost of linking different user packages together.
It would also release many of the 9,000 staff employed in warehousing and distribution from data input jobs so they could take on frontline tasks.
PkMS replaces an in-house warehouse management system that grew out of the Worldwide Chain Store package. It will be rolled out to 4,500 users at 34 distribution sites in a HP-UX 11 environment with an Oracle 8i database and thin clients using Microsoft Windows.
"The payback is very attractive," said White. "We won't need separate packages for customer management, bond management, order picking, load planning and labour management. It's also the first time Sainsbury's has implemented a client/server application outside financial services instead of mainframes."
White said it was the range of functionality that swung the decision in favour of Manhattan over another supplier after six months of tests. "In the grocery distribution business all the core packages came out of the store but because PkMS comes out of the textile industry it comes at things from a fresh direction," he said.
White said the installation was expected to be the beginning of a long-term relationship because Sainsbury's felt "very comfortable with the people" at Manhattan and felt they could work together to develop the product.