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Innovation/Automation in Retail

afransen

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Sure, but that's the whole point. Companies offshore because they can pay wages that aren't a living wage - in many developing countries, a "competitive" wage is not enough to live on, and the minimum wage is practically worthless.
How does $4 compare to wages in Nicaragua. Offshoring is not evil, it's how people in many countries can support their families without having to leave. Very common in the Philippines and India. It's like demonizing the apparel brands that had clothing made in Bangladesh while often times those jobs pay quite well by local standards and support families. Trade is key to lifting developing countries out of poverty.
$300 usd per month is average, or CAD$2.50 /hour on 160 hours per month. So $3.75 seems like jobs many people in Nicaragua would be happy to have.
 
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Northern Light

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Yes, my tongue is in-cheek............ LOL

Apparently Sobeys is innovating new ways to bring you fresh protein in your salads:

1663010042608.png


Live frogs are now available in select packages of Compliments Salads Greens


The original TikTok video that made Frog Salad go viral:

https://www.tiktok.com/video/7141865695981079814
 

T3G

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Personally, as a retail worker working for a hardware store I despise this push towards automation. I don't consider it to be innovative or progressive at all, it's just another way for the store to save money while making life more difficult for those in the field.

At my store, we have 3 exits/entrances out of which customers can enter. Two have regular cashiers but the centre entrance has a self check out as well as two regular lanes. The SOP is to keep the self check out open at all times, and with the alleged "slowdown" (of which I've seen no evidence) with the end of summer we very rarely have the personnel to keep either of the regular lanes open, with breaks and lunches seemingly always needing to be covered. So you'll have one cashier standing at the self check out, monitoring 4 stations, while an endless stream of customers comes by. If you are lucky, they will not even acknowledge your existence, but very frequently you'll have something or other going wrong, in the best case scenario it's a genuine technical problem that requires intervention by the cashier, but usually it's just someone who doesn't "get paid to be a cashier" that doesn't want to do the work. Personally, I think this is a completely ludicrous objection, but you can't even send them away to one of the other registers. So suddenly, you find all 4 stations going off with everyone wanting something while you're cashing out someone who can't be bothered to use the self check out himself. It doesn't help that our computers are terrible from a technical perspective, it's always the computer, the card reader, or the printer breaking or freezing, requiring you to intervene, a good 10 or more times per shift.

I think that this is a terrible labour model and I can't imagine what it achieves from a customer service perspective, either, if there's always a big line to use the same stations and always a traffic jam, be it due to genuine problems or entitlement issues. I make it a point of telling every customer who is dissatisfied with our level of coverage to leave a review letting us know that this is unacceptable, because this is the only way retail management will get it through their heads.

As a customer, I don't mind self check out, but knowing what I know about the grief I have to put up with every single day, it's absolutely not worth it. Innovation, my foot.
 

Northern Light

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Personally, as a retail worker working for a hardware store I despise this push towards automation. I don't consider it to be innovative or progressive at all, it's just another way for the store to save money while making life more difficult for those in the field.

Of course productivity gains are driven by financial considerations, it has ever been thus.

But society (government) can choose to oblige employers to reinvest a meaningful portion of those savings back to into higher wages, more benefits or greater customer service, or some combination thereof.

At my store, we have 3 exits/entrances out of which customers can enter. Two have regular cashiers but the centre entrance has a self check out as well as two regular lanes. The SOP is to keep the self check out open at all times, and with the alleged "slowdown" (of which I've seen no evidence) with the end of summer we very rarely have the personnel to keep either of the regular lanes open, with breaks and lunches seemingly always needing to be covered. So you'll have one cashier standing at the self check out, monitoring 4 stations, while an endless stream of customers comes by. If you are lucky, they will not even acknowledge your existence, but very frequently you'll have something or other going wrong, in the best case scenario it's a genuine technical problem that requires intervention by the cashier, but usually it's just someone who doesn't "get paid to be a cashier" that doesn't want to do the work. Personally, I think this is a completely ludicrous objection, but you can't even send them away to one of the other registers. So suddenly, you find all 4 stations going off with everyone wanting something while you're cashing out someone who can't be bothered to use the self check out himself. It doesn't help that our computers are terrible from a technical perspective, it's always the computer, the card reader, or the printer breaking or freezing, requiring you to intervene, a good 10 or more times per shift.

I think that this is a terrible labour model and I can't imagine what it achieves from a customer service perspective, either, if there's always a big line to use the same stations and always a traffic jam, be it due to genuine problems or entitlement issues. I make it a point of telling every customer who is dissatisfied with our level of coverage to leave a review letting us know that this is unacceptable, because this is the only way retail management will get it through their heads.

Self-checkouts work best, as an option for medium to low volume customers, with simple-scan products (no weighing required), and preferably, no over-sized items.

Some things simply aren't suited to self checkout from a practical perspective.

You can measure (and most retailers do) throughput at automated checkout vs a conventional cashier.

In grocery, by and large, orders over 20 items are more efficiently processed by cashiers vs customers. There are some stores now implementing a simple rule, if you use a cart, you go to a cashier, if you use a basket, you go to self-checkout.

In grocery, heavy and over-sized items (ie cases of 24 cans of pop) don't work well in the automated check out setting; and items that require one to know a code (produce) slow things down a lot, but looking up 1 or 2 items is not too big a deal, but 5 or more often is........

As a customer, I don't mind self check out, but knowing what I know about the grief I have to put up with every single day, it's absolutely not worth it. Innovation, my foot.

There are, of course, many other forms innovation can take in retail.

Electronic price tags are huge in grocery, vs having staff go around manually changing them.

A push is increasingly on, in grocery, to better track churn/BB/Expiry product so it can be moved, even at a discount before it must be tossed.

Trucks electronically meeting a loading dock can save some time (vs manual back up) (think of it it as parking assist for big-rigs); and ways are being studied to expedite off-loading as well.

One of the most labour intensive exercises can be stocking, I'm sure that's true for your store as well. Automating that, if you want something more display oriented than a Costco drop pallet here........plan.....is a challenge.

But there are ways being looked at for at least some products, particularly those that come in neat, standardized boxes.

Also under study are restocking machines that bring items from the back of house to the correct aisle w/o human intervention, but where humans will still do the last mile work.

An example of this already exists in a way, at Humber River Regional Hospital which has robots that deliver toilet paper and supplies to a given unit, from storage, but humans still take the rolls to their final destination.

Walmart already uses robots to check stock levels on shelves:


*****

To me, when this sort of thing is done properly, it means greater product availability, less waste, fewer injuries to staff, fewer pricing errors and the savings can boost profit margin, boost pay for the remaining staff, and allow staff to spend more time on actual customer service (like expert advice)
 
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Tuscani01

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On the topic of SCO, I was at Uniqlo at Square One a few weekends ago and they have SCO’s now, but they function much better than the typical scan and go.

Instead of scanning, you just put your items in a bin and it automatically adds to your total. I’m guessing it’s based on RFID instead of barcodes. It was super easy and efficient.
 

bcx

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On the topic of SCO, I was at Uniqlo at Square One a few weekends ago and they have SCO’s now, but they function much better than the typical scan and go.

Instead of scanning, you just put your items in a bin and it automatically adds to your total. I’m guessing it’s based on RFID instead of barcodes. It was super easy and efficient.
Tried it at the Eaton Centre location. I found that it detected items before I had put them in the bin. Not a big deal but I would prefer if their iPad would display a picture of the item instead of the name though so I could easily verify it wasn't detecting items that somebody passing by was holding.

I believe the Decathlon store at Union Station has something similar.

It would be great when grocery stores adopt these.
 

afransen

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RFID won't likely be adopted by grocery because of the physical nature of the goods. Goods with a lot of metal or water (such as canned goods) can block the RFID from being detected. Adoption is accelerating in apparel though.
 

T3G

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But society (government) can choose to oblige employers to reinvest a meaningful portion of those savings back to into higher wages, more benefits or greater customer service, or some combination thereof.
Of course. But I'm not sure it would be wise to hold my breath on that, not on this continent, anyway.

You can measure (and most retailers do) throughput at automated checkout vs a conventional cashier.

In grocery, by and large, orders over 20 items are more efficiently processed by cashiers vs customers. There are some stores now implementing a simple rule, if you use a cart, you go to a cashier, if you use a basket, you go to self-checkout.
It would be nice if we had this option at my store. As it is, there is no middle ground between absolute skeletal crewing, and more cashiers than you know what to do with, as was the case in May when everyone started buying up gardening supplies. We had so many cashiers scheduled at one point there were four just monitoring the self check out because there was nothing else for them to do.

Alas, with the end of May came the end of this treat. We keep hearing from management that hours are down because it's less busy, but I certainly don't notice anything of the sort. The store is just as rammed as ever, there's just less people shopping for gardening supplies. And heaven help us if we have a cashier that knows a merchandising department, because management will pull them to cover if there is missing personnel in that department. And suddenly we're trying to figure out how to cover a cashier's break when there's only 3 left and 3 registers are open...

I'm not sure if our store measures throughput at automated checkout vs. at a cashier. If they do, I don't think they have done anything constructive with that information in the two and a half years I've been working here. They monitor check out times as a general rule and will give you flack if your check out times are what they deem to be unreasonably high, but they also want the cashier monitoring the SCO to sign in, meaning that the bad check out times there will fall under their name and they will appear to be a much more terrible cashier than they actually are.

I'm just tired. It's been months since I've come home from work and not felt totally exhausted. Cashiering should not be this mentally draining!
 

Northern Light

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Of course. But I'm not sure it would be wise to hold my breath on that, not on this continent, anyway.

The skepticism is understandable. But I would add, agitate for the change you want.

If you're comfortable with it, push for unionization at your work; unions aren't magic, some suck, but some really do help.

Elsewise, push gov't to raise minimum labour standards, in two ways, one is wages/vacation etc.

The other, is in limiting hours for those under 18; labour shortages tend to produce improved working conditions.

Any which way, don't settle for the status quo; I'm not saying rock the boat at a level that risks your job; but rock the boat in every way that doesn't.

It would be nice if we had this option at my store. As it is, there is no middle ground between absolute skeletal crewing, and more cashiers than you know what to do with, as was the case in May when everyone started buying up gardening supplies. We had so many cashiers scheduled at one point there were four just monitoring the self check out because there was nothing else for them to do.

Alas, with the end of May came the end of this treat. We keep hearing from management that hours are down because it's less busy, but I certainly don't notice anything of the sort. The store is just as rammed as ever, there's just less people shopping for gardening supplies. And heaven help us if we have a cashier that knows a merchandising department, because management will pull them to cover if there is missing personnel in that department. And suddenly we're trying to figure out how to cover a cashier's break when there's only 3 left and 3 registers are open...

I'm not sure if our store measures throughput at automated checkout vs. at a cashier. If they do, I don't think they have done anything constructive with that information in the two and a half years I've been working here. They monitor check out times as a general rule and will give you flack if your check out times are what they deem to be unreasonably high, but they also want the cashier monitoring the SCO to sign in, meaning that the bad check out times there will fall under their name and they will appear to be a much more terrible cashier than they actually are.

Something I have advised senior manager to do; and have yet to ever see taken up, is an annual back-to-the-floor plan for senior managers.

I really feel it's an important idea, not merely for some sort of do-gooder empathy, but to see how ideas dreamed up at HQ really work in the real world.

Nothing better than a reality check of stocking a shelf or working a cash or doing a delivery yourself, even one day a year, to go.........holy @#$# how the hell did we decide on this?

So many companies would benefit from senior management better understanding how their choices play out.

I also really love the idea of those hours being paid at retail/manufacturing rates, even for one day........because I think many senior managers really have no idea how low they pay; or that many people who work at that
rate are not High Schoolers living free and easy on the bank account of mom and dad; indeed, many are themselves parents.

I'm just tired. It's been months since I've come home from work and not felt totally exhausted. Cashiering should not be this mentally draining!

Sorry to hear that; that sucks!
 
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Tuscani01

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Something I have advised senior manager to do; and have yet to ever see taken up, is an annual back-to-the-floor plan for senior managers.

I really feel it's an important idea, not merely for some sort of do-gooder empathy, but to see how ideas dreamed up at HQ really work in the real world.

Nothing better than a reality check of stocking a shelf or working a cash or doing a delivery yourself, even one day a year, to go.........holy @#$# how the hell did we decide on this?

So many companies would benefit from senior management better understanding how their choices play out.

I also really love the idea of those hours being paid at retail/manufacturing rates, even for one day........because I think many senior managers really have no idea how low they pay; or that many people who work at that
rate are not High Schoolers living free and easy on the bank account of mom and dad; indeed, many are themselves
We did this at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t mandatory unless your VP made it mandatory, but it turned into something stores pushed back on. They didn’t want corporate staff in their stores 😐
 

Northern Light

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We did this at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t mandatory unless your VP made it mandatory, but it turned into something stores pushed back on. They didn’t want corporate staff in their stores 😐

That's just asinine. (stores refusing to cooperate)

I mean I get if head office wants to dump all its untrained for the floor staff on one location and be a burden, but if you can spread it around a dozen stores, and HQ can compensate too.

At any rate, I think it's such an important idea that should apply to VPs and the CEO as well. Once you get to see how that decision on bagging works out, or the way the warehouse is organized, or how many customers can't find something, or where the cleaning supplies (for in-store cleaning are stashed) etc etc. That's when you get insight that matters. Lots of bright people in HQs do come up with lots of bright ideas........some of which don't need further refinement.

But many, many do. The chance to see how things work out IRL vs on paper is just priceless.

Seeing how returns work at every stage would offend many an MBA, and listening to the 'Why' would be enlightening.
 
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T3G

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Yes, I think that having the suits from the office coming down and working the store every now and then would go a long time towards rectifying the ills of the job, not only in terms of cheaping out on hours (which is people's livelihoods), but also changing various operational procedures and merchandising standards to be more intuitive.

We have corporate walks once a quarter, but they never jump in, they just observe, and since the store has a ton of heads up notice that they're coming, it has the ability to put a bandaid on the flesh wound and pretend for a few hours to be functional. If corporate was genuine about seeing how things work on a day to day basis (which they're not, because that would require them to implement changes, and in almost all circumstances require them to open their chequebooks), they would pop in unexpectedly. They would see the long lines of angry customers waiting to cash out with a single cashier and see why we haven't opened as many credit card as they want us to, or why the check out times are so long; they would see the long lines of angry customers wanting to return items to a single cashier, they would see what happens when the sole person on the daytime freight team calls in sick and there's no one to offload the trucks, or sort the receiving area out so that items and orders can be located easily, they would see what happens when you have one teenager scheduled to pull contractor deliveries of heavy building materials with no one to assist them, or what happens when the sole lot loader calls in sick and now the single cashier frantically has to scramble, while still monitoring the self check out, desperately calling anyone in the store for customer loading assistance. It's easier to be ignorant.
 

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