A Grocer’s Guide to IoT-Enabled Employee Empowerment

Sensing-as-a-service framework connects food safety, freshness, loss prevention and next optimized action
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Combining IoT connectivity with automated digital decision-making generates real-time insights and prescriptive actions that grocers can leverage to empower employees and elevate operations to new heights.

Grocers are navigating a sea of complexity today when it comes to delivering fresh food and high-quality consumer experiences. From unexpected supply chain disruptions to strict regulatory compliance protocols, the pressure is on for maintaining high levels of food safety for the communities they serve. All it takes is a single spoiled product at the wrong time to cause a consumer illness, followed by a publicized foodborne illness that puts both customer health and brand reputation in jeopardy. This, in large part, is why digital food management solutions, particularly driven by food safety segments, are expected to reach $2.4 billion in valuation by 2026.

[Read more: "Grocers Are Streamlining Ops With IoT"]

The integrated adoption of IoT-enabled innovation offers a roadmap for simplifying the key complexities of grocery operations. Fusing IoT sensing and monitoring solutions with AI-driven prescriptive analytics software creates a dynamic IoT sensing-as-a-service framework that connects the dots between food safety, freshness, loss prevention and the next optimized action – further enabling grocers to navigate the intricacies of meeting rising consumer expectations in a volatile market environment.

Meeting traditional HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) food safety compliance standards doesn’t automatically equate to positive customer experiences. Grocers need to ensure their products aren’t just safe to consume, but can also maintain peak freshness long after they leave the aisle, delivering on the second moment of truth, when they’re consumed. Combining IoT connectivity with automated digital decision-making generates real-time insights and prescriptive actions that grocers can leverage to empower employees and elevate operations to new heights.

Enhancing Grocery Store Operational Efficiency

IoT sensing-as-a-service solutions produce a vast range of telemetry data – temperature, humidity, traffic, volume, etc. – that’s being leveraged to enhance operational efficiency within grocery stores. Through a digital-physical-digital workflow, these solutions automate the delivery of text-based prescriptive insights from IoT sensors (physical) to a digital dashboard that prompts employees to complete specific tasks (digital), then confirm that those tasks were completed (physical) within a centralized platform. Grocers can apply this workflow to monitor critical control points and asset performance (freezers, refrigerators, heating lamps) to avoid harmful excursions and costly breakdowns.

By directing employees to prioritize the right and optimized tasks at the right times via data-driven decision-making, grocers can empower staff to amplify productivity and performance, in turn raising the operational efficiency of the entire store. Detecting temperature excursions in real time, for example, allows stores to swiftly alleviate issues before they cause products to spoil. Continuously monitoring equipment allows for well-defined proactive preventive maintenance schedules to minimize the rate of expensive equipment failures that cause operational downtime.

Streamlining Grocery Compliance Protocols  

It’s no secret that the current food regulatory environment is exceedingly complex. Federal compliance standards are continuously evolving: The FDA just released another new set of food traceability regulations as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), for example. The ever-evolving nature of compliance forces grocers to ensure that their associates are up to date on the latest rules and regulations in place. It makes sense, as even minor temperature excursions along various touchpoints of the food chain can lead to irremediable product spoilage. However, in addition to being cognizant of compliance standards, employees must also be positioned to produce on-time and accurate reports proving that products were stored in adherence to federal and state regulations. With little time to focus on compliance amid a myriad of daily responsibilities, manual reporting processes are often error-prone and strenuous, combined with lack of staff and increased cost of labor.

An integrated IoT sensing-as-a-service framework removes the need for manual reporting from the equation. IoT cellular gateways automate the transfer of environmental recording data to an interconnected dashboard, which then translates the telemetry insights into a simplified compliance log. Within seconds, a workflow that would take employees hours to complete is already done – giving employees wider time windows to focus on maximizing the customer experience without enduring burnout. Compounded at scale, this framework leads to a more productive and engaged staff that’s committed to working for the grocery store long-term. This gives grocers a proactive way to mitigate the impact of industry labor shortages, ensuring that they have adequate staff levels to keep operations running smoothly.

About the Author

Guy Yehiav

Guy Yehiav is the president of SmartSense by Digi, a provider of IoT connectivity solutions with offices in Boston; Hopkins, Minn.; and Mishawaka, Ind.
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