Q&A with Russ Newall, VP of customer success at Invafresh
Can automation and digitization of fresh operations help retain frontline workers, maximize scarce labor hours and minimize labor expenses, errors and disruptions? Invafresh discusses the role fresh food retail technology plays in achieving this goal.
“The result of Invafresh’s solution saves us hundreds of hours in labour per year. What used to take us days is now completed in hours! The Invafresh team went above and beyond to make this project a success.”
~ Artie Kroese, director of store operations, Roche Bros. Supermarkets.
How has the pandemic increased the difficulty of retaining labor in grocery?
The “great resignation” brought on by the pandemic has created new hurdles for the industry with some 649,000 retail workers putting in their notice in 2021, marking it as one of the industry’s largest exoduses. Today’s transient workforce, employee churn paired with inflation and ongoing supply chain issues, adds layers of frustration as grocers struggle to manage an already lean labor force and meet fluctuating demand.
The industry has lost more skilled workers and full-time staff than ever before with 56 percent of grocery workers citing burnout for handing in their notices. Employees seek more than wage increases. They desire meaningful work that serves a greater purpose and the right tools to help them accomplish day-to-day tasks in an efficient manner.
Fortunately, advances in fresh-centric technologies such as intelligent demand forecasting and automated fresh ordering is reimagining the future of grocery work and providing much needed relief to grocers unable to fill shifts to handle essential functions. While time and labor issues are the enemies for fresh, fresh intelligent forecasting is the superhero that combats shrink and optimizes labor.
We’re seeing humans and AI joining forces in many industries to accomplish great things. How does Invafresh’s artificial intelligence powered Fresh Retail Platform empower employees and shift the nature of grocery retail work?
Many grocers still rely on manual methods to forecast and order leading to repetitive tasks, error prone processes, frustrated employees, and poor results. Not to mention disgruntled customers. Relieving store employees from these tasks allows them to focus on more impactful work, such as creating memorable consumer experiences that keep shoppers coming back.
Fundamentally, the Invafresh Fresh Retail Platform combines augmented human intelligence with the efficiency and power of AI and Machine Learning, evolving the roles of the in-store fresh labor force.
One centralized platform helps grocers process and manage demand forecasting for all processes across fresh food retail demand forecasting, merchandising, replenishment, and compliancy and sustainability. Our fully modular platform is designed to process and analyze the grocer’s data of their fresh business and operationalize to forecast constant shifts in demand to optimize and match with supply and availability to improve labor efficiency by 3 percent, reduce food waste by 30 percent, and improve sales by 5 percent.
Take this example of an ordering process in a meat department:
Automated fresh ordering facilitates “Just-in-time truck-to-shelf” meaning there’s only one touchpoint for the operator, which significantly reduces time to work backstock. Grocers can realize labor savings of over 90 minutes per department or order cycle in addition to the incremental benefits of lower shrink, improved sales due to assortment, availability and lower backroom inventory improving working capital.
Think about what this reduction in labor time can do for the quality of work for your employees and cost savings for your operations!
What role does automated fresh ordering play in reducing labor hours and maximizing performance?
Creating the perfect order is critical for grocers to avoid stockouts and reduce shrink. Over ordering leads to food waste and erodes margins, while under ordering leads to empty shelves and erodes customer loyalty. Invafresh’s Fresh Ordering functionality integrates with real-time fresh backroom inventory quantities to deliver grocers the industry’s most accurate replenishment recommendations.
Grocers can eliminate stressful and error-prone guess work and reduce labor hours required for ordering with autonomous order processing that manages the orders independently of in-store operator approval. Workers can spend less time ordering and more time on the store floor.
Managing ingredients for in-store recipes is costly in labor hours. Our built-in Recipe Management functionality generates consolidated replenishment requirements for ingredients used on one or many recipes for fresh food retail items produced in-store. This means fewer trips to the backroom to retrieve ingredients, eliminating tiring repetitive tasks and saving labor hours.
As a growing number of workers retire, they take their decades of experience with them, making it harder to maintain production levels. How does Invafresh address the skills gap?
If you look at any grocery store, you are going to find employees of varying skill sets. Finding experienced managers is an ongoing struggle in the industry. We recognize that making smart decisions in inventory, ordering and production or replenishment requires experience and process sophistication that even the most qualified operators find challenging. Our platform opens opportunities to leverage a less experienced and transient workforce.
The Invafresh FRP levels the playing field so that all tasks and processes in fresh are simplified and standardized. Whether a worker has five years of experience or five months, they will be able to easily run reports, put in orders, execute production plans as the platform automates these tasks to eliminate guesswork.
The foundation for our solutions strategy is that teaching someone to count inventory is easier than teaching someone to create quality orders. We help amplify the impact of your current labor force without adding headcount and provide the opportunity to create more meaningful work for employees, such as servicing customers.
The pandemic and the great resignation have also created significant gaps in shifts and increased missed shifts. Without fresh-centric automation, this would mean missed orders and lost sales for grocers.
Our platform is highly configurable and store managers can optimize labor scheduling by running a labor requirements report. The platform can be configured to align to when labor is available (for example, part time worker hours, morning, afternoon, evening shifts) by department and accommodates non-standard shifts and hours to ensure maximum value in limited resource hours.
How does Invafresh empower and help grocery leaders retain employees?
The intuitive, configurable, and user-friendly nature of the platform can be adopted quickly and builds employee confidence and engagement in new technology. Our platform is mobile-centric, enabling store employees with access to accurate just-in-time information, up-to-the-minute communication, and instant alerting while operating on the sales floor. No need to be tied to a backroom computer. Store operators can spend less time in the back and spend more time in the front improving the consumer experience.
Additionally, our award-winning customer success team of Freshologists work alongside our grocery customers and operators of all levels to empower store employees through quality training and tools from the point of onboarding to adoption and continuous improvement to ensure strong software adoption and maximum return on investment.
We build a solid foundation right from the start. By dedicating a Customer Success Freshologist to each account, we ensure a successful implementation and smooth enterprise-wide roll-out and provide aggregated reference data to help you benchmark performance. Our CS team continuously monitor key performance metrics and meet with customers monthly to further drive value and unlock hidden opportunities.
The time is now to be Best in Fresh! Learn more at go.invafresh.com/labor.
To learn more about Russ Newall on our Experts page, click here.