Real-time rewards

Musgrave Cash and Carry have just completed a country-wide rollout of a new Radio Frequency (RF) back-bone to their central and satellite depots within Ireland. The first phase finished mid 2002 and plans are afoot to build upon the infrastructure already in place as the year progresses.

Eamonn L’Estrange, Musgrave Cash & Carry IT Project Manager, reports on their latest project: “The obvious benefits from the introduction of the solution have advanced the company from a technological and operational point of view and leave us well poised to exploit further opportunities in the coming months. Manpower savings have been warmly welcomed at depot level. Selling face activities (floor relay, stock take preparations) can now be completed in significantly less time, freeing up staff to execute other value-add tasks in the depot.”

So what functionality did Musgrave use to deliver such benefits? They chose the latest Radio Frequency (RF) technology for key cash & carry selling face activities like Gap Replenishment, Price Verification and Shelf Edge label production.

This technology utilises special hand held terminals, incorporating scanning, for data entry. These terminals link directly to the main computer system via an internal radio frequency network so that staff always have real-time stock and pricing information at their fingertips and records on the main system are updated instantaneously as tasks are completed.

Using the hand held units to scan data directly into the system means staff can work much faster and more accurately. Shelf prices are always up to date, labels accurate and in place and low or empty shelves or warehouse locations can be promptly restocked. Lost sales as a result of product unavailability can be minimised. Moreover, the flexibility of the system means tasks which had to be done individually can now often be undertaken simultaneously, delivering recognisable business efficiencies.

The €350K investment in RF technology for its cash & carries follows Musgraves first venture into RF early last year with the opening of its specialised food service depot in Ballymun. Here, as part of its installation of BCP’s Accord food services solution, Musgrave implemented more traditional RF features, utilising a combination of hand held and forklift truck mounted terminals. This had totally transformed activities like goods receiving, stock taking, putaways and picking face replenishment making Musgraves determined to extend the technology to other areas of its business, where it could identify tangible savings and benefits..

As a result, in summer 2001 Musgrave began a project with long-term solutions partner, BCP, to develop Accord RF features aimed specifically at improving ‘front of store’ cash & carry activities. Within a couple of months, BCP had developed RF modules for key selling face activities, including Gap Replenishment, Price Verification and Shelf Edge Label production.

Musgrave immediately piloted these, using a Symbol Technologies Spectrum 24 spread spectrum RF network and Symbol hand held terminals, at its Cork depot. Roll out to all its cash & carries followed during the first half of this year. All were eager to reap the performance benefits demonstrated at Cork. Some 70 floor staff, at nine depots are now using the new RF features. And, as L’Estrange reports, “Staff have adapted well to the new technology. It’s easy to use and affords the depot the opportunity to align staff more with the customer”.

Musgrave are currently working with BCP to further exploit their investment in RF technology and extend its benefits to other depot activities. “We’re currently considering its use for customer returns, as well as the possibility of combining it with other emerging technologies to attain even greater improvements in efficiencies.”