Modelo Continente Hipermercados is the retail division of Sonae, Portugal’s largest holding company. It is the country’s biggest retailer with a network of hypermarkets located in major city shopping centres offering an extensive and varied range of products and services. Continente stores are committed to providing customers with the best prices, the widest range of products and the highest level of customer care, an approach which is much appreciated and well known among Portuguese consumers.

In common with other major retailers throughout the world, Continente constantly strives to provide customers with new and better ways to shop. This includes the development of a home shopping service to meet the requirements of customers wishing to find a faster and more convenient way to buy.

As the popularity of its home shopping service has grown, the company needed to improve the way that customer orders could be fulfilled in-store to ensure faster product delivery and an enhanced quality of services. In particular it wanted to upgrade the picking trolleys pushed by staff and enhance the picking process that had traditionally been based on using clipboards with printouts of customer orders that were ticked as items were selected from the shelves.

X2 was called in to recommend improvements to the existing picking operations by SISQUAL, a specialist technology company based in Porto that was working with Continente to implement a new IT infrastructure including over 4,500 mobile computer handsets.

According to Frederico Magalhaes of SISQUAL: “We selected X2 because it has proven expertise in delivering effective solutions to major retailers around the world. We were impressed by the commitment and flexibility demonstrated throughout the development of a custom solution to meet Continente’s specific product picking requirements.”

X2 recommended a custom picking trolley that would be better suited to the unique retail layouts used in each store. This unique two-part unit would comprise a main wagon and separate detachable technical unit to enable staff to manoeuvre around narrow aisles between main gondolas where freestanding point of sale display units often restrict access.

The computer supplied is the X2362, a compact, high performance and energy-efficient tablet PC that is based on the Intel® Atom™ processor and features an 8.4” touch screen display and on-screen keyboard. It is quickly and easily removable for charging or for use in a variety of additional warehouse management applications.

A Motorola LS2208 scanner is also mounted on the technical unit and connects to the tablet PC using an innovative new fused USB cable with robust rubber flanges at each end to lock it in place and guard against damage. Designed by X2, it will withstand any amount of stretching and bending and will even bear the weight of a loaded trolley when the handheld scanner is used to reach products or shelves that are out of range. The built-in fuse eliminates any potential risk of damage to the scanner and computer from electrical shorts caused by overstretching the cable. The scanner can also be used hands-free as the cradle has a magnetic contact putting the unit into an ‘always on’ mode.

Power is provided by a removable battery pack mounted on the technical unit. X2 also supplied a custom charging solution comprising lockable cabinets that can simultaneously charge up to 20 computers and 24 batteries. The ventilated cabinets include a number of unique safeguards to ensure that cables are attached correctly and prevent them from being accidentally pulled out and dislodging the chargers.

The new picking trolleys are finished in Sonae red and feature a number of other innovations including an integrated advertising panel, hooks on the front to store empty totes, built-in tape dispenser for sealing bottles to prevent leakage and a sturdy foot operated braking system.

“We have been able to significantly enhance the efficiency of our in-store picking operations,” added Pedro Santos of Modelo Continente. “The trolleys are proving to be easy to use with the robustness to deliver a long and reliable service in our busy retail environments.”

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