Chemist Warehouse pilots voice-activated stock system
Chemist Warehouse is piloting a new voice-activated point-of-sale technology to assist it with in-store fulfilment and the achievement of frictionless retail.
Currently being trialled at a pilot location within the company’s 400-store network, the voice system has been designed by CMW internally to assist employees with reconciling stock as it comes into warehouses.
Previously staff would open cartons of goods, such as drugs, and use a handheld scanner or paper invoice to cross-check the contents for accuracy, as well as separating different products for movement to shelves.
Under the new system employees issue voice commands to a device as they unpack stock, which is then automatically reconciled against the order and catalogued in CMW’s point-of-sale system.
Speaking to Internet Retailing about the new technology, CMW partner and director Mark Finocchiaro said the trial, which is due to last for six months, has already generated a 30 per cent efficiency over its old manual system.
“There’s a lot of technology that exists to put stock into boxes, but not a lot that exists to take them out, reconcile them, decant them and then put them on the shelf,” he said.
“It’s all about trying to find efficiencies, trying to create frictionless retailing for our customers. We’re so busy, so we need to get stock where it needs to be in a timely manner so we don’t disappoint customers.”
The technology has been designed to assist with out-of-stock instances, inventory integrity, as well as generating general efficiencies through the in-store supply chain.
“It doesn’t have the personality of Siri or Cortona, but not that far into the future as the intelligence behind having a conversation with a machine matures it will be kind of like having a digital assistant that has all the answers all the time,” he said.
CMW is targeting a 50 per cent improvement in efficiency compared to its old system before pressing go on a broader roll-out and will be refining the system in the coming months with feedback from pilot store staff.
A 10-minute training program is associated with getting the technology up and running, but Finocchiaro said after some “initial trepidation” staff had found using the technology very natural.
“It’s a potential for the future, you can imagine what the mouse did to a computer, voice will do something similar, but I think we’re a little while away yet,” he said.
CMW has worked with Voice ID and Zebra to get the technology off the ground, which it hopes will also be able to generate efficiencies in its replenishment over time.