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Behind The Scenes: Technology Makes It Happen
Technology has been the key for the last decade in supermarket transformations.
by Lucienne Gigante
April 27, 2000
"There has been a technological transformation in the industry. Most businesses are now mechanized," says Johnny Barreto, chairman of the board of directors of Econo Supermarkets.
Scanners, debit cards, credit cards, electronic balances, and electronic points of sale exemplify the technology making customer transactions quicker and more efficient. Just one of themthe cash register scannerminimizes transaction time by 75%.
"Technology is the area where supermarkets have transformed the most in the past ten years, but the transformation has taken place behind the scenes, and people dont see it," says Atilano Cordero Badillo, president of Empresas Cordero Badillo and Supermercados Grande. "Supermarkets chains that have not completely incorporated to technology will not have a future whatsoever," he continued. Supermercados Grande has invested about $6 million in updating and implementing advanced technology to the operation, including fiber optic lines.
As for supermarket dealings with suppliers, orders that before were made and verified by hand can now be conducted in minutes through computers. "With White Rose, we can conduct an electronic order and through laser equipment sends the order by telephone. An order that would take three days to do manually, will take five minutes today. Its about efficiency," says MIS director Alina Giron at Supermercados Grande.
Technology has also helped get the best out of employees. Computer programs can match cashiers according to expected sales forecast in a supermarket for any given week. "If it is a busy week, the computer would then locate the best cashiers and place them in the rush hours," she continued.
Certain programs can also provide control of product prices and specials from the central offices to all stores. Executives in the central office computers change the price of a specific product and all stores will receive the adjusted price that will be reflected in the scanners.
"We have implemented state-of-the-art technology," says Chuck Newsom, vice president of Pueblo International, Puerto Rico division. "We have the capability to do what the big guys do in information management and electronic marketing." The company has upgraded its logistic network and computer systems in central offices and in stores.
Mi Familia Supermarkets, established in 1997, is also catching the computer buzz. The supermarket chain, which follows a similar concept to Econo as independents supermarkets joined forces to minimize costs, has a three-phase plan to connect all stores through a computerized system.
Some of the local supermarket chains have also established their presence on the Internet. Econo, Grande, Pueblo, and Amigo already have store websites offering interested consumers information about the company, store location, news, and shoppers.
But Supermercados Amigo is already taking the next step towards e-commerce. The company is conducting a pilot program to test their anticipated online grocery shopping initiative. Amigo will be the first supermarket in Puerto Rico to sell groceries online.
"Customers will be able to shop through the Internet, order from their computer and schedule an approximate time of delivery," says Jose Marti Costa, director of operations for Amigo. The program will first serve the Condado, Caparra, and Miramar area.