Scanning for gold

Adrian Devine, managing director, Leaders Enterprises Ltd: Exceptional reporting allows retailers to see exceptions in terms of products that were sold above or below the margin they were expecting
Adrian Devine, managing director, Leaders Enterprises Ltd: Exceptional reporting allows retailers to see exceptions in terms of products that were sold above or below the margin they were expecting

There’s much more to scanning than beeps at the check-out; in fact a wealth of invaluable information that could improve your business lies waiting to be captured



8 July 2009

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A ‘beepeuse’ or ‘woman who beeps’ is how French writer Anna Sam has described herself in the best-selling book, Les Tribulations d’une Cassière (The tribulations of a check-out girl). Mademoiselle Sam concentrates on giving a tongue-in-cheek account of her customers. However, it has to be pointed out, that from a technological point of view, there is certainly a lot more to scanning and barcodes than mere beeping, to say the least.

In fact, Adrian Devine, managing director, Leaders Enterprises Ltd, highlights the multiple benefits that such technologies can deliver. Software has improved substantially, according to Devine, and is now better at managing information and analyses margins more accurately. Scanning can now also deliver increased “exceptional reporting,” allowing retailers to see any exceptions in terms of products that were sold above or below the margin they were expecting.

Better management information

Scanning and barcode technologies can also now be integrated with accounting packages. Devine explains that when a product is scanned at the point-of-sale, what was sold and the cost of the sale will automatically transfer through at a departmental level. “This information can then be tied up with invoice matching, utility bills etc, to create a very accurate set of accounts each month.” Scanning can also be fully consolidated with profit and loss reports. Such integration allows retailers to effectively reconcile their bank information, analyse margin and see how their business in performing overall. Devine believes this ability is particularly important during the current recession, when better management information is crucial for retailers to improve their bottom line.

Scanning can also deliver more convenience for those partnered with a symbol group. When a product is scanned and a barcode read for the first time, the system can import the product’s RRP from the franchise file. Devine points out that this is reassuring for retailers as they can know they are a selling a product at the right price every time, and it simultaneously improves customer satisfaction, as they’re not delayed while the correct price is ascertained.

Touchscreen tills with product images and integrated facilities such as cigarette vending and credit card authorisation are also functions which improve speed and accuracy and help reduce shrinkage.

Cutting shelf-edge technology

Devine also observes that electronic shelf-edge labelling is becoming increasingly popular. Again this is particularly useful for retailers with multi-locations as if a price change is made centrally in one store, it will automatically transfer to the retailer’s other stores. Importantly, this can enable retailers to respond quicker to any pricing issues.

Fortunately, barcode and scanning technologies have decreased in price significantly, and Devine says, “Leaders can prove retailers do receive value for money.” On the other hand he notes that while retailers are keen to secure value, “that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll buy cheaper solutions.”

Retailers want add-ons to their systems which will deliver multi-functionality and ensure they receive a return on investment. Furthermore, Alan Carroll, managing director, Waveform Solutions says that the cost of barcode scanning devices continues to fall, “pushed down by global demand.”

Handheld devices pack a punch

Carroll also finds “huge advancements have been made in recent years, particularly in terms of mobile technology…Handheld devices pack a lot of processing power and run on Windows Mobile which allows for companies like Waveform Solutions to develop highly feature rich applications running on one device.”

While he believes many retailers are not using the available technology to their advantage, he states that those Waveform Solutions has worked with have seen positive results. Waveform Solutions has provided Dunnes Stores with 1,000 rugged handheld devices and 600 rugged mobile printers across its stores in Ireland. “The solution running on the Honeywell mobile devices allows Dunnes Stores to ensure product pricing is 100% correct on the shelf at all times and eliminates the need for store staff to walk to and fro to office printers to retrieve shelf edge labels, as was the case previously.”

Waveform is also currently developing a suite of retail solutions called ShopTrack, This will provide shelf edge labelling, price mark down, advanced shipping note processing, inter store transfers, and also a return to vendor feature. Waveform has recently rolled out the first phase of this solution to Brown Thomas in Dublin on a pilot basis, with a full roll out anticipated very soon. The group is also currently working on a number of innovative retailing solutions, which can be viewed at

Jim Bracken, chief executive of GS1 Ireland, says that the outcome of the recent pork dioxin contamination could have been dramatically different had an effective traceability system using scanners been in place

Jim Bracken, chief executive of GS1 Ireland, says that the outcome of the recent pork dioxin contamination could have been dramatically different had an effective traceability system using scanners been in place

Effective traceability

It is not just within the retail sector that barcode and scanning technologies can play a key role however. Jim Bracken, chief executive of GS1 Ireland, explains that the outcome of the recent pork dioxin contamination could have dramatically different had an effective traceability system using scanners been in place.

In fact, a Joint Oireachtas report on the subject found that, “an effective traceability system would have facilitated a recall of contaminated product only. This was not possible in the dioxin contaminated incident which necessitated a 100% recall for a 10% contamination rate.”

Bracken comments: “Had the traceability system been developed based on GS1 standards, there is no question that a targeted recall would have been possible. There are already excellent implementations of GS1 standards both in the food and healthcare sectors that would evidence this.

“For example, in the case of Irish beef products affected by the same dioxin contamination, the total recall was not necessary because proper batch traceability systems based on GS1 identifiers were already in place. Similarly the NCHCD CFC Track & Trace solution based on GS1 standards has the proven capability to recall 100% of a suspect product within hours of notification.”

From farm to fork

Bracken adds: “Tracking from farm to fork is becoming even more effective and efficient thanks to GS1’s development of low cost RFID tags that can be used on animals. Recent developments in this area both in New Zealand and Denmark with ‘Pig Tracker’ are undoubtedly more appropriate and fit for purpose than the conventional ear tags.

“Furthermore, RFID tags can also be used to track the bulk product movements across the supply chain. For point of sale and in-store stock management purposes the marking of meat products labelled with GS1 Data Bar codes could indicate the batch information required to enable a targeted recall of all fresh produce including pork.”

GS1 is currently working with BIM and IASC on a fresh fish traceability project and work has also begun in the Irish foodservice sector.

From the retailer’s point-of-view

Chris Donnelly, retail IT manager of ADM Londis, explains how an investment in scanning technologies has improved efficiency and benefited the group’s retail partners

“Over the past four years ADM Londis plc and our retail partners have invested heavily in an upgrade to Windows based EPOS systems, costing close to €7 million. At our group support office in Johnstown we have also invested in technologies which enable us to take advantage of the advanced functionality now delivered at store level via EPOS systems. We have also invested in mobile technologies both at store and field force levels, with stock control, ordering and auditing features all now being delivered on mobile platforms.”

Partnering up

“ADM Londis have two EPOS partners, namely Retail Solutions and Station Master. Both suppliers have exceptional Windows offerings and also have long standing relationships with ADM Londis and our retail partners. They know our business and have rapidly developed and deployed solutions for the group in the last number of years.”

Financial sense

“The primary advantage of any EPOS or barcode investment must be measured in financial terms. The system must deliver enhanced margin via reducing shrinkage, waste, out of stocks, overall stock holding and the ability to deliver key value-added promotions to the end customer. All of these benefits have been clearly identified from the feedback received by our customers. In addition, the speed of throughput has greatly increased thus improving the customer’s shopping experience.  

“Using hourly sales reporting, not simply for a day or a week, but over a more defined period allows for much better staffing levels and efficiencies. Again in the current price centric environment we are in the process of piloting electronic shelf edge labels (e-sel). The aim here is to ensure improved accuracy for our consumers, as well introducing some unique and innovative promotional activity. For example we will have the facility to drop pricing across a range for a consumer ‘happy hour’.”

An express bulletin

“The next step forward in our exploitation of technology is taking the weekly bulletin one step further, and rather than simply transmitting price and order information, we are adding a business intelligence layer to our offering. The traditional bulletin was based on the price list order form (PLOF), and for many years not much extra was added to this. We now seek to understand how we can do things better, and living in the information age, knowledge is power! By pooling our collective market intelligence we can identify top-selling lines, margin opportunities, competitor pricing strategies and so on. We can also use this as the platform to assist in enhancing the consumer shopping experience.

It is planned to add such important information to receipts, such as sugar, salt and calorie count. These initiatives however are just the start. We now have a platform which will allow Londis retailers be the first to react to both legislative and market changes, keeping ADM Londis one step ahead of the competition.”

Strictly returns-focused 

“We have very strict rules on investment in ADM Londis, full cost benefit analysis must be completed for all projects, post implementation reviews are conducted by our finance department to ensure that the required benefit has been delivered. These same strict principles are followed through on any investment advice we supply to our retail partners.

“Looking towards the future, ADM Londis already has a number of projects underway, however a large proportion of our future investment will be in web based technologies. The speed of deployment, relatively high availability of broadband and ease of support mean that the web is certainly the way forward for ADM Londis.”



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