Why it pays to think about the whole system, not just your local function
Ability to do bulk price mark-downs? Nice to have.
Today we are looking at a large UK supermarket stock control system. At the end of the day the staff mark down prices on the short-life items (sandwiches etc). They have a hand held scanner with a belt printer. Scan item – print label – stick label on item. Well that’s what the process is supposed to be, only this takes time (20 seconds per item) and when you have a whole shelf to do is a chore (12 items takes four minutes). Far easier to just write down the new price on a ‘discount label’ with a sharpie and stick it over the barcode (do the whole shelf in less than a minute).
Where’s the problem in that? In fact three minutes of waste (waiting time) has been eliminated. Only it is a problem…
The customer takes the item to checkout and the mark-down label is covering the barcode. The checkout colleague tries to peel it off to scan, but it doesn’t peel cleanly. So she manually enters in the SKU. And the mark-down price. And this has taken 2 minutes for one item and the queue has grown and because of the ‘one in front’ policy they have to open a new checkout and suddenly that small problem at one end of the value chain is replaced by a bigger costlier one at the front end.
But had we not observed this we would never know that bulk price mark-downs on the hand-held device is not a nice to have, it is million dollar requirement.
Good metaphor and one that works for me.
Did you go and watch some the staff doing the mark downs in order to observe that? Sounds pretty cool.
You can see why they shortcut the process like that given how long it takes with the ‘correct’ way. Presumably the solution is to try and cut down the time the proper approach takes so that people are more inclined to do that than shortcut?
Yes, I’ve spent many hours in supermarkets watching customer and user behaviour…