SCDigest: New Kroger Bar Code Scan Tunnel Could Revolutionize Retail Checkout
Through a special arrangement, presented here for
discussion is a summary of a current article from Supply Chain Digest.
May of 2010, Kroger has been testing a revolutionary new approach to point
of sale and retail checkout that involves high-speed imaging of bar codes or
other identifiers to reduce its own labor costs and speed shoppers through
the checkout process. The technology, Advantage Checkout, developed with Fujitsu,
was on display at the NRF conference.
The heart of the system is a “scan tunnel” similar
in a sense to tunnels some airlines have tried to deploy to manage the tricky
job of scanning baggage bar codes that are oriented in every possible angle.
A battery of imaging scanners on all sides not only read bar codes, but use
optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read letters and numbers
and potentially to capture a picture of the product as it goes through the
As an example of how the system can work, if there is a bad bar code
on an item, the imager using its OCR capability may still be able to identify
the product based on the printed UPC number below the actual bar code. A display
at the end of tunnel tells a store operator when a product was “seen” but
not identified, where quick manual handling of the item would take place.
After a shopper’s items have all been placed on the cart, a red bar similar
to the separators commonly used today to indicate when one order ends and the
next begins is placed on the belt. When the scan tunnel sees that, it notes
the order is complete and the POS systems produces a total bill ready for payment.
read rates in the pilot program are 98.5 percent or more.
Kroger said the system
can reduce store labor by further empowering customer self-checkout. Current
self-checkout systems in grocery stores are generally used by shoppers with
a relatively small number of items but Advantage Checkout is designed to be
used for large or small volumes of items in a shopping cart.
The high speed
of the system — the belt inside the tunnel is moving at rapid pace — means
the system can dramatically improve the processing time for a given customer
through checkout. Customers or a store associate can rapidly place products
on the belt and off they go through the tunnel as the cart continues to be
unloaded. It is clearly capable of processing many dozen of items in a short
period of time.
“The key is reducing the number of product touches,” Kroger CIO
Chris Hjelm told SCDigest. “How can we eliminate billions of touches
a year by both our customers and our associates? That was a key design goal.”
Kroger has to decide if, how and when it will actually roll the Advantage Checkout
system out to its own stores — and potentially make the technology available
to other retailers. Kroger holds a number of patents related to the system.
The design also assumes that item-level RFID won’t be coming to the the grocery
industry any time soon.
Discussion Questions: What’s your take on this Kroger Advantage Checkout
system? Do you think it can be successful in mass deployment? Should or will
Kroger make it available to others any time soon?
- New Kroger Bar Code
Scan Tunnel Could Revolutionize Retail Checkout – SupplyChainDigest
- NRF 2011 Video Review and Comment – SupplyChainDigest
What’s your take on this Kroger Advantage Checkout system? Do you think it can be successful in mass deployment? Should or will Kroger make it available to others any time soon?