HOPKINTON, MASS. — Labor shortages and other problems of the COVID Era have made grocery retailers work harder than ever to meet the needs of demanding consumers.
Technology is providing many of the solutions they’re looking for, and few are more important than tools dedicated to streamlining inventory and preventing waste.
Hopkinton, Mass.-based software specialist Jera Concepts recently retooled its platform to help customers deal with sourcing, labor and other problems.
The platform, designed to be more interactive for store employees, with the goal of limiting the decision-making process as much as possible, has been very well received, said Wynne Barrett, a Jera partner.
“It’s really gaining momentum,” he said. “One of the things COVID and the labor shortage have done is to make people realize that they need tools to remove critical thinking” from the inventory management and other processes.
In conversations with customers and potential customers, one employee response has stuck out for Barrett: “I don’t want to have to think about what I have to do.”
Having tools like Jera’s management software is more important than ever, given the tight labor markets that continue to burden retail grocery and other food industry channels.
Convenience stores and QSR and other foodservice channels continue to be the focus for Jera’s current business, but Barrett said the company’s platform would work just as well in retail grocery, a category that he expects to target in the near future. Small retail chains in particular are expected to be a good fit for Jera.
The technology made a big leap about five years ago, Barrett said. It took businesses awhile to adjust to it and to realize that it wasn’t as hard to implement as they first thought.
“Companies are becoming more aware of how technology can help them,” he said. “And not just aware of it, but comfortable with it. The conversation level just this year changed tremendously.”
To cut back on waste, more and more grocery retailers and other players in the food world are keeping a close eye on each stage of the production cycle to make sure each step is taken at the right time, Barrett said.
For instance, Jera now offers its customers the capability to print a label indicating when a shipped product needs to be thawed, when it needs to prepped after it’s thawed, etc.
“More and more companies are doing that, following the full food safety regimens,” Barrett said.