BBCTechnology

Football fizz

Have you ever wondered why the products you see on supermarket shelves occupy the positions they do, and how retailers manage their stock levels? This is the science of shelf management and technology is playing an increasingly important part in it.
Following this year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCH), a major bottling partner for the global drinks brand, reported a 6.4% jump in revenues for the first half of 2018.
The football competition, warm weather and new product launches helped boost sales, the company said, but new technology also helped, in the form of sophisticated image recognition and data analytics.
CCH implemented a new system operated by tech firm Trax which digitised the previously manual stock-taking process.
When you have 200,000 retail customers across a geographically vast country like Russia, relying on pen and paper stock records that then had to be inputted into a computer was hardly ideal. It led to delays in replenishing empty shelves, which is not good for business.
Running out of stock costs retailers more than $634bn (£494bn) a year in lost sales, according to a report by retail analysts IHL Group.
And with the summer’s World Cup attracting 4.5 million visitors, “it was highly important for us to get the right stocks in place,” says Aleksandr Makarov, project manager for CCH Russia.
Implementing the Trax system resulted in a 63% reduction in “out-of-stock” occurrences and audit times that fell from 20 minutes to two minutes, says Mr Makarov.
“We achieved 99.5% product availability in stores three hours before the games started.”
So how exactly did CCH achieve this?
Using shelf-mounted cameras and augmented reality on smartphones and tablets, Trax’s image recognition system monitors all the products on open shelves and in coolers, understanding how they differ in size, shape and colour.
A “panoramic stitching engine” pieces together the in-store images to recreate the full shelf, while analytic software recognises each product. The supermarket is instantly alerted if brands are out of place or missing from the shelves.
But, as Trax chief executive Joel Bar-El explains, “many products look the same but are in different sizes, like fizzy drinks, for example. So we’ve created an extra layer, understanding the physical layout of the store and looking at the price to help us work out the likely size of the product.”
The firm is identifying 250 million products a month and providing real-time data to 170 retailers and brand manufacturers around the world, says Mr Bar-El.

Source: BBC
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