Coles has finally made some progress on installing an automated ordering system in its stores, hoping to roll-out the system to just under a third of its supermarkets by the end of the year.
Ian McLeod (Credit: Wesfarmers)
"The easy ordering program is something that we're now starting
to progress with broader levels of scale," Coles MD Ian McLeod said
at an investor briefing in Sydney last Friday.
He addressed past critics who believed the chain should have
tackled its pen and ink ordering system sooner. "I know there's
been criticism in the past that we've been slow off the mark in
terms of developing this automated system. But in my personal
experience if you rush at rolling out automated systems into
stores, then ultimately it will fall over and cause you more
problems. What we've been absolutely resolute in doing here is
making sure we roll at a pace we think stores can digest," he
In August this year, Wesfarmer's CEO Richard Goyder had said that McLeod
thought the business was "not capable" of introducing auto
replenishment at that time. "We will gradually bring
auto-replenishment into the business as we can do it effectively
and in a way where we don't create enormous upheaval in the
business," Goyder said.
The time appears to have come. Next week will see 30 stores on
the system, according to McLeod, with 200 of the chain's 700 stores planned to go on by the end of the
year. The stores that adopted the system had seen lower inventory levels and
improved availability, according to McLeod.
The most important thing when moving stores onto the system was not putting the personnel's noses out of joint, he
said. "What's important in these areas is that the store management
feel as if they've been delivered a benefit and they not just feel
like they've been done to," he said. "Previously this was regarded
as an IT implementation system and what we've done is re-spun it to
make sure that the stores realise that actually this is a store
operations improvement program with IT facilitating the
This had been so successful, he said, that department managers
working in the 30 stores where the system had been implemented were
resisting transfer to the stores that hadn't yet installed it.