Supermarket chain Somerfield will this week go live with the first stage of an initiative to computerise its new product development process.
The development is aimed at cutting the time to market of its own-label products and boosting efficiency in the supply chain.
The initiative follows a trend set by rival supermarkets Safeway, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, which have committed to putting as many of their new product development processes online as possible.
Somerfield, which has 1,100 outlets across the UK, including its Kwik Save stores, will this week go live with a communication portal to enable 200 internal users and 350 external suppliers to input data about new own-label products.
In August, a product development project planner and tracker system will go live. This will be followed by the "full diligence" package - an online file storing all the details relating to new product developments - that will be officially launched in January 2005.
The initial investment being made by Somerfield is estimated to be £600,000.
The web-based system, from supplier Ramesys, will support Somerfield’s plans to increase its range of own-label products, which currently number 6,500. It will work on a password basis and suppliers will only see information pertaining to them. All changes will be tracked and recorded.
Steve Ridge, associate director for quality assurance at Somerfield, said the entire new product development process would be reduced to less than 19 weeks for most items - which he said was a "considerable reduction".
"We wanted to have more control over the whole process and speed it up and the system will allow this," he said.
"At the moment, the supplier, the artwork agency and Somerfield will input product data, slowing down the process. This way everything is only inputted once."
The Ramesys system replaces an inefficient paper-based process which was supplemented by electronic spreadsheets and a legacy Access database, Ridge added.
"We do not properly monitor the new product development process at the moment," he said. "The system will give us a proper timeframe for the process and give us greater control, accuracy and speed. It will also allow us to balance our resources better."
Information from the Access database and paper files will be transferred to the Ramesys system.