Realizing that dealing with the unexpected is actually the norm, supermarket chain Giant Eagle is in the process of restructuring its store operations, task management and communications to reflect this reality.
In an #NRF16 Big Show session titled Real-Time Customers Require Real-Time Store Operations, Chris Kelly, Senior Director of Operations, Planning and Engineering for the 422-store retailer noted that “Store associates are being asked to do things they have never done before,” due to a combination of new offerings, larger stores, omnichannel demands, a greater shift to local products and new regulations from agencies including the FDA and OSHA.
In addition, problems can (and do) occur when things change: “Weather, a truck delivery being late, an unexpected omnichannel order,” said Kelly. To help both managers and staff adapt, Giant Eagle has initiated Project Blueprint, which includes the following goals:
• Achieving operational efficiencies;
• Ensuring stores are consistent, and that they do the right work at the right time;
• Aligning expectations with reality, and scheduling to meet those expectations; and
• Sustaining these processes: “We want Blueprint to become the way we work and support ongoing changes,” said Kelly.
Complete Move To Mobile
The privately held Giant Eagle, which employs 34,000 people and generates $9.5 billion in annual revenue, operates supermarkets and convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. The retailer is deploying four Reflexis modules to support Project Blueprint:
• StorePulse, which provides real-time alerts and actions to individuals;
• Retail Task Manager, for communicating expectations from headquarters and district managers to stores;
• StoreWalk, supporting managers and providing consistency as they move around their sites; and
• Advanced Analytics and Reporting, powered by IBM Cognos.
The StoreWalk module has gone chainwide with all Giant Eagle store managers as of Q4 2015. They are using Motorola MC40 handheld devices as they tour the store. “Everything is completely mobile; our goal is to remove PCs from the stores,” said Kelly. “We want people to be out on the sales floor, and they want to be there.”
The initial StoreWalk tasks have focused on food safety, and the retailer will add goals around customer service, operational standards and efficiency in Q1 2016. “We wanted to start with the store managers, since that’s a smaller pool of people, and this got the equipment into the stores,” reported Kelly. Giant Eagle will take a slower approach to adding Walks for associates, with plans to train and roll them out during the next nine months.
“We want to be very methodical, and to do change right,” said Kelly.
Giant Eagle is taking a similar go-slow approach with StorePulse. So far, it has a single business case, covering online orders, up and running on the system. When a catering order, for example, comes in via GiantEagle.com, “it’s processed and then transmitted through the task management system,” Kelly explained. “If there’s a wedding cake ordered for three months from now, the system doesn’t tell the bakery now; it provides the information nearer to the delivery time, but with enough time built in for preparation and production.” Giant Eagle plans to add multiple additional business use cases to the system’s responsibilities during this calendar year.
While the Analytics and Reporting element will be critical to improving operations and sustaining the program, use of this module is still in a design phase. “It won’t really go to work until the other three are up and running,” said Kelly. “However, when it does, we see it providing insights to a diverse group including merchants and operations teams, helping identify things like where information about out-of-stocks should go. We will be capturing information as we’ve never done before.”
Giant Eagle’s commitment to making Project Blueprint an ongoing success is reflected in its plan to eliminate all other forms of communication to stores as far as task management is concerned. “It will be the sole system to cascade work down to the store,” said Kelly. “We want to transition away from email and route everything through the system. If the request isn’t coming through the Reflexis module, we’re saying the store doesn’t have to do it.”