I encountered an interesting use of technology at my local supermarket recently. What I liked about it, from a lean perspective, is that it eliminated some waste from the process of shopping.
The introduction of bar codes and scanners (which I believe was 30 or 40 years ago) speeded up shopping tremendously. In the past few years, many supermarkets (and other stores) have added self-service checkout lanes, where you scan the items yourself rather than hand them to a cashier. I find that convenient when I have just a few items, though I doubt it makes much difference in how long the process takes.
But at our local Stop & Shop in
Upon entering the supermarket, we were offered an easy-to-use handheld scanner. (You have to have one of the store’s bar-coded frequent shopper tags to get one. Your tag is scanned, and you receive the scanner.) As we walked through the aisles of the store, we scanned each item we selected, then placed it directly into a bag in our shopping cart. (You can bring your own reusable bags, as we do, or obtain plastic bags from the store.)
If you change your mind about buying something, the handheld unit has a “remove” button to take it off your list.
For fruits and vegetables, we went to a special station in the produce section. We placed each bag of produce on a scale, and typed in either its name or number code. The scale printed a bar-coded label for the amount we were buying, which we then scanned with the handheld unit.
At checkout, with our groceries already in bags, we handed the scanner to the cashier, who then scanned our frequent-shopper tag again, along with any coupons we had. The total was displayed, we paid, and the register printed out a receipt listing every item we had purchased. Checkout took little more than a minute.
The biggest time savings occurs because you place your groceries directly into bags, rather than having to place them in the wagon, unload them at checkout and then put them in bags. A little additional time is required to scan each item, but I believe the time saved more than makes up for this.
It’s a win-win situation. The customer completes shopping in less time, and the store can process more customers through checkout.
Has anyone else had experience with this? What do you think?