Why Most Supermarket Automation Systems are Currently Rubbish!

Supermarket automation is something I had not thought about, until coronavirus lockdown.

This changed shortly after the start of lockdown when I got a job at a local supermarket.

Having been employed there for nearly four months from 1st April, through to late July, allowed me to observe how it worked.


Let’s consider a supermarket in terms of a machine.

In automation systems, such as PLC‘s , you can break the system down in terms of an input stage, followed by the process stage, and then the output stage.

In a supermarket, the input stage is the delivery of physical products by a delivery truck.

Once the goods, such as baked beans are delivered, then we move on to the ‘process’ stage.

The ‘process’ stage in a conventional supermarket, begins with the goods being taken off the delivery truck on wheeled metal trolleys.

The trolleys are bought into the back of the store, wrapped around with cellophane plastic.

The goods contained on each trolley, are not placed on each delivery trolley, in any logical order.

For example, a typical trolley could include beer, next to breakfast cereal, and toilet rolls.

This seemingly random loading of the delivery trolleys has two problems:

The first problem is that the delivery trolleys are large and heavy, therefore the products need to be unloaded into smaller trolleys so that the products can be taken into the ‘shop floor’.

The supermarket team leaders manually make up smaller trolleys, from the larger delivery trolleys, for staff to stock the shelves with.

This ‘making up’ smaller trolleys of goods, from the larger delivery trolleys, is inefficient in terms of staff time, and ultimately, therefore, money (wages).

Secondly, the time delay involved between unloading from the delivery truck, and getting the products onto the shop shelves, has potential food safety issues.

Some of the products that arrive on the delivery trolleys are refrigerated goods.

Whilst it should be stated, that the refrigerated goods are all on the same delivery trolley, there can be a delay in getting the goods into the store’s refrigerated cabinets.

More on supermarket automation, to come soon……

Published by Craig Miles

Craig Miles

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