A new robot that can monitor and help manage stock levels in retail outlets and supermarkets could lead to cost savings for retailers of up to $300,000 per store per year, according to its creators.
Launched by Australian-based innovation firm Lakeba, the Shelfie in-store robot combines robotic technologies with image capturing and data analytics running on the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Available as a robot, drone or hand-held device, Shelfie scans shelves and price tickets, delivering real-time stock reporting to help identify sales trends and provide intelligent insights to optimise merchandise layouts.
With a study from research firm IHL Group suggesting that globally retailers forego $1.1 trillion of revenue each year because they run out of stock of popular items or overstock unwanted product, having access to real-time data is extremely important.
A full supermarket-scale inventory takes around three hours to complete. This involves the Wi-Fi connected Shelfie robot or drone mapping the store’s layout, scanning shelves, identifying stock levels and capturing pricing information from shelf labels. An automatic aisle scan identifies when stock is running low and alerts staff that they need to restock.
At the same time, the data collected is analysed in Microsoft Azure and reveals which lines are racing off the shelves and those moving more slowly, allowing purchasing managers to adjust procurement.
Darren Younger, Shelfie CEO and non-executive director at Lakeba, said that not only can retailers shave costs by tackling under or overstocking issues, they can also measure how quickly stock gaps are addressed or new merchandise planograms and ticketing are rolled out. This will provide a metric to manage and improve.
“We call this the Shelfie Index—a 0-100 score based on store stock and layout,” he explained. “We forecast that beyond optimising existing revenue chains, Shelfie can deliver cost savings of up to $300,000 per store per year.
“For a grocery retailer operating hundreds of stores it can quickly equate to a sizeable saving, freeing up time and resources to be invested in other operational areas.”
Executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, said that the Shelfie robot will revolutionise retailers’ ability to review stock levels, keep out of stocks to a minimum and ensure retailers are able to meet customer demand by understanding which products sell the most.
“The Shelfie robot is an innovation developed by Australians that will revolutionise supermarkets’ ability to forecast stock requirements in both Australia and overseas retailers,” he said.
In future, Lakeba plans to integrate Shelfie with supply chain management solutions. This will be possible as the solution works with Azure, said Marcy Larsen, retail lead at Microsoft Australia.
“Microsoft Azure is the cornerstone of Shelfie, which leverages Active Directory, SQL Database and Content Delivery Network,” she explained. “This supports image capture and data analysis in real-time.
“In the future Shelfie will be integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to automate stock ordering, and Azure’s rich range of machine learning and cognitive services will allow Lakeba to create solutions that will truly transform retail.”
The Shelfie solution is initially targeted at the grocery sector and will be piloted by UK supermarket chain Co-Op.
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