Supermarket boosts efficiency tenfold by integrating systems

Supermarket chain Somerfield is about to embark on the third and final phase of an extensive systems integration project linking...

Supermarket chain Somerfield is about to embark on the third and final phase of an extensive systems integration project linking its head office to its 1,300 stores, after seeing a tenfold improvement in efficiency following the initial roll-out.

The move forms part of the retailer's three-year IT strategy to create single systems for the warehouse management, stock reference and replenishment aspects of its business.

Somerfield, whose stores handle an average of 10,000 daily file exchanges, has seen failed transmissions of information fall from 2% to 0.21% since rolling out the Extended File Broker (XFB) application from integration specialist Axway.

The XFB software, which is used for stock management and administration information, has allowed Somerfield to implement an improved "just-in-time" stock ordering process, said Roger Eade, senior systems manager at the retailer.

"The importance of the timely delivery of our store data via XFB has grown as we have introduced more fresh product into our stores," he said. "With the shorter shelf life, it is a finer balancing act to achieve a level of stock that minimises wastage, while offering our customers the maximum product life."

Because stores have an improved knowledge of stock levels, ordering is a more precise process, Eade said. "The assured transfer and collection of data enables stores to generate orders, confident that they will be received and fulfilled, rather than receive a best-estimate emergency order," he said.

The next phase of the integration project, currently in pilot, will see XFB rolled out onto Somerfield's IBM-based electronic point of sale system, allowing the retailer to have a standardised process for stock ordering and analysis throughout the business.

Timely delivery of Epos data will allow Somerfield to, for example, analyse how well individual promotions are performing. "Improved basket analysis will give us an idea of which promotions are doing well and where in terms of region," said Eade. "This will give us better shelf life and availability whether promotions are performing well or under-performing."

Somerfield is also looking at how XFB can be used to enable tighter integration with suppliers' systems. This would be possible because the software is centrally deployable, removing the need for additional licences.

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