Will the ‘Shelfie’ revolutionise supermarket stock management?

Will the ‘Shelfie’ revolutionise supermarket stock management?
A stock optimisation robot from Microsoft partner Lakeba will soon be trialled in UK supermarkets

Richard Humphreys |

A new innovation from Australian Microsoft partner Lakeba combines the latest robotic technologies with intelligent image capturing and data analytic solutions running in the cloud, empowering retailers to grow sales revenue through improved stock management.

The in-store robot, which is called ‘Shelfie’, has the ability to automatically travel around stores scanning shelves, enabling real-time stock reporting via the Shelfie Dashboard which is built on Microsoft Power BI to help identify sales trends and provide intelligent insights to optimise merchandise layouts.

The unit is available as a robot, drone, or hand-held device and, depending on store size, can undertake a complete inventory check of a supermarket within three hours. With an initial focus on the retail grocery sector, the Shelfie solution will soon be piloted at UK-based supermarket Co-Op.

Darren Younger, Shelfie CEO and non-executive director at Lakeba says Shelfie differs from other retail-focused robots due to the increased visibility it enables around stock and day-to-day operations. “Shelfie equips retailers with a new KPI around how quickly stock gaps are addressed, or new merchandise planograms and ticketing are rolled out – something that until now stores have been unable to measure,” he says. “Ultimately, Sheflie optimises in-store sales opportunities – preventing missed ones, and promoting the best.

“For example, once a gap or discrepancy is located, an alert is sent out to ensure it is quickly fixed so that the sales opportunity is not missed. Similarly, it streamlines reporting around sales trends providing retailers with intelligent insights enabling localised special offers.

“At Lakeba, we’ve labelled the retail industry’s newest KPI the Shelfie Index – a 0-100 score based on store stock, and layout. We forecast that beyond optimising existing revenue chains, Shelfie can deliver cost savings of up to AUS$300,000 per store per year – for a grocery retailer operating hundreds of stores it can quickly equate to a sizeable saving, freeing up time and resource to be invested in other operational areas.”

The Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman stated that the Shelfie robot will revolutionise retailers’ ability to review stock levels, ensure that out of stocks are kept to an absolute minimum, ensuring that retailers are able to meet customer demands by understanding what products are the premium selling products, thereby ensuring that retailers have stock as and when required.

“The Shelfie robot is an innovation developed by Australians that will revolutionise supermarkets ability to forecast stock requirements both in Australia and overseas retailers,” he said.

“Considering the retail industry’s constant transformation, Shelfie needs to be able to change and grow with it. The breadth of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud applications and services equips us with the capabilities we need to future-proof Shelfie beyond the launch unit,” said Younger. “Microsoft Azure is the cornerstone of Shelfie, with services such as Active Directory, SQL Database and Content Delivery Network providing automated capabilities, enabling image capturing and data analysis be actioned and presented in real-time. Looking to the future, we’re exploring integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to help automate the ordering of stock when levels are low, and investigating the potential of machine learning and cognitive services running in Azure.”

The future of the retail industry is more automation – both consumer facing and in day-to-day operations. Shelfie represents an important chapter in this transformation and with its foundations in Microsoft’s trusted cloud – ensuring it can grow with evolving industry trends – retailers can be confident that an investment in the technology is an investment in their current and ongoing success.

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