Grocery stores operate on thin profit margins. Competing with companies like Amazon that offer online purchasing and delivery, or supermarkets like Walmart that have an expansive inventory, means that being able to predict what your customers need in what quantities is crucial in keeping costs low. One of the avenues grocery stores can take advantage of with the right data movement and management is the Internet of Things.
How is the Internet of Things impacting grocery store supply chains?
- Grocery stores can monitor real-time purchasing to analyze trends and reduce waste. Different grocery stores have customers with different buying patterns. Some grocery stores feature a wider selection of kosher products while others have a high demand for organic produce. Some stores may have a larger customer base with children while others may have more one- or two-person households using their goods. Tracking the actual purchase patterns within each store helps large chains and associations plan distribution with more precision and less waste, which is particularly crucial with produce and meats.
- Integration of the Internet of Things will encourage the use of AI. The vast majority of products have individual barcodes, and a significant number of them also have RFIDs. This means grocery stores can use sensors and software to track inventory, which in turn will give artificial intelligence programs the information to predict trends with increasing accuracy, suggest discounts, and monitor consumer trends.
One of the biggest problems grocery stores face is accurately predicting the type and quantity of goods they need to keep in stock. Increased accuracy means less risk and fewer goods returned to manufacturers after failure to sell, and in the future, it could result in completely new supply chains and procedures.
That future has already started to take shape by using these live trends and demands to transform how goods are transported to your stores. When people think about self-driving cars, they usually imagine a highway full of passenger vehicles being directed by a connected system of computers. But most companies investing in driverless autos have a different scene in mind: the transportation of goods and materials from manufacturing to stores as an integrated process instead of a broken-up supply chain that causes you delays. Use of the IoT and data management in stores has already started to change inventory maintenance in two areas:
- Warehouses. Using AIs for internal transportation such as depositing and retrieving stocked goods, unloading materials that have arrived on semi-trailers, and for remotely monitoring stock levels will be an easy in for self-driving vehicles. Companies can test out smaller trucks and forklifts in an area that presents far less liability than the road, and they can automate routine tasks while saving people for more complex jobs. This translates to more efficient deliveries to stores whether the orders originate from an individual franchise or as an aggregate order form headquarters.
- As intermediaries for carrying cargo between ships and trucks. Again, some of the easiest places to integrate driverless vehicles into the industry will be away from the public. No matter how safe the autos might be, the regulation and public belief in the safety of AI drivers are not yet in place. Programming complex but repetitive cycles of short-distance transportation will help companies organize and expedite the exchange of goods and get them on their way across the country faster.
The key to all of these changes is information. Once your store or chain's data programs can provide live records of products, as well as the position of new deliveries, and anticipate future demand, you can establish even more reliable forecasts and reduce revenue loss. You can also then have a true supply chain instead of a series of supply steps.