Bernard Matthews' procurement goes online

Retail is gaining from the Net through better sales, reports Bill Goodwinfrom the Retail Solutions show

Retail is gaining from the Net through better sales, reports Bill Goodwinfrom the Retail Solutions show

Bernard Matthews, the poultry products supplier, will cut its production costs by tens of thousands of pounds a year by investing in an online order information service.

The service, called the Retail Extranet Optimiser (REO), will provide the company with up-to-the-minute stock and sales details of its products in three of the UK's largest supermarket chains.

REO is designed to help food and grocery suppliers make sense of the increasing volumes of confusing and incompatible sales data supplied by retailers through incompatible extranet services.

Although Bernard Matthews is already linked up to information services from Sainsbury's, Tesco and Safeway, it does not have resources and manpower to make full use of the data supplied.

"The problem is the inconsistency of the data between the three systems and the sheer volume of data," said Edwin Pearson, general manager of Bernard Matthews. "You have a relatively junior person going through it each day and they are not going to be able to make value judgements about what's important."

REO, provided by retail specialist Eqos Systems, will extract data from each system, present it in a single format, and alert managers by mobile phone to sudden changes made by supermarkets to the quantities ordered.

It takes Bernard Matthews three hours to analyse only a fraction of the data supplied by the supermarkets each day. REO will supply a complete analysis in just minutes.

"On short shelf-life products, retailers continually move their targets. To influence production, you need to have that information as soon as possible," said Pearson.

With factory labour costs running at £35m a year, even a small improvement in production efficiency could lead to big savings, said Pearson.

"It will help us improve the accuracy of our forecasts in the medium and long term. It also gives us the opportunity to respond much more quickly to changes in demand in the short term," he said.

Pearson believes that Bernard Matthews will save the £40,000 subscription to the service within a year.

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