As the ‘Big Four’ supermarket chains compete for the top spot in the UK grocery industry, more than 1,400 suppliers are reported to be struggling under the demands for cheaper pricing. Whether you’re a supplier, independent retailer or work in production and manufacturing working smarter and more efficiently are both key in surviving quite a tumultuous time for the industry.


Technology is likely to play a vital role in this, both from customer-facing practices to internal operations and systems, and this latest post looks at three systems looking to play the biggest part.

1. Digital Management Systems

McKinsey & Co, a global management consultancy firm, has followed the retail grocery trade closely and has published a fantastic paper on their website detailing how a variety of digital management systems (both internal CRM systems and customer-facing online platforms) are going to be key in customer retention.

From a commercial perspective, smart-meters (such as this example from tech-company Winnow) can help reduce any waste of fresh food and meats by allowing close monitoring of what’s thrown away. Whether this is in a kitchen or retail environment, it allows for better management of stock and control over disposal; in research carried out by the company, costs were reduced by an average of 65%.

In their bid to cement themselves in the South Korean market, Tesco introduced their ‘HomePlus’ virtual store into subway stations – a great example from a customer-facing perspective. The system lets consumers shop online using QR codes and their smartphones; this innovative digital system saw online sales increase by 130%.

2. Electrical Lifting Equipment

Making the switch and introducing mechanical lifting and transportation of large loads and deliveries, whether in a storage, delivery or warehouse setting, can have an enormous impact on productivity and efficiency. Specialist suppliers like SHS Handling Solutions offer electrical and mechanical lifting equipment which is designed with the grocery and warehousing industries in

As an example, in a study carried out by the HSE detailing the health and safety benefits of handling equipment one of their case studies also noted the productivity and performance benefits of using electrical and automated systems through using lift trucks.

Compared with the manual handling carried out initially, the load times were reduced by 75% – down to just 15 minutes.

The mechanical handling of these large sacks (25kg each) has now been rolled out across the business’s operation – spreading these efficiency and productivity benefits throughout the company.

3. Energy Efficiency To Boost Growth

The grocery and retail food industries use a large amount of energy in the UK – somewhere around 3% of the whole country’s energy consumption. It might sound like a small percentage, but as an amount of energy used and carbon emissions it’s still a huge number, with around 4 metric tons of CO2 each year.

That’s the findings of a report into energy consumption and conservation in food retailing by researchers at both Brunel University and the University of Bristol.

Figures from this research and other data suggest that, of the systems using the most energy, it’s refrigeration that play the biggest part – contributing somewhere between 40% and 60% of all energy used in the industry. It’s an essential aspect, but savings can still be made even with retrofit technology.

The adoption of technologies such as secondary loop refrigeration and resurgence in the use of CO2 as a refrigerant are gradually helping the industry to reduce its energy consumption – with even the ability to modify existing systems as opposed to investing in new ones able to save retailers up to 10% in consumption.

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