Despite the sophistication of their systems, grocery retailers struggle with sales-based data for unwrapped food produced in-store. Jane Tyler explains how our BakePlan app beats this blind spot to improve forecasting and planning.

As we talk to different types of supermarkets and c-stores and get to see their operations, one common theme is the challenge faced by many due to the poor quality of sales data for certain product categories. Unwrapped in-store bakery goods are very often associated with this problem.

Difficulties arise when there is no barcode for checkout data recognition. Not all consumers are willing to scroll through pages of screens to enter the exact bakery product they are buying at a self-service checkout. The same is also true of some checkout staff.

The obvious answer to this problem is to wrap every loose product to ensure it has the right barcode. This, however, completely nullifies the theatre of the in-store bakery consumer experience. Such goods don’t look as fresh when they are prewrapped. The only time you want your customers to see them wrapped/barcoded is as end-of-day discounts. And these can only be kept to an absolute minimum with accurate data.

One way of reducing these problems is to charge the same amount of money for a wide range of products. Inevitably, however, the products in question are still frequently sold against the wrong item resulting in poor quality sales data.

This, in turn, compromises any sales-based ordering system for these products. As well as meaning that your in-store production unit is more prone to making the wrong things at the wrong times, the bad EPOS data also affects what you are ordering from your suppliers and when.

Acceptable limits?

The opinion of some retailers is that the impact of these issues can be kept within acceptable limits in stores with well-trained staff and without self-scan checkouts. However, data integrity starts to become a major headache in some city centre stores with high staff turnover where visual identification of these products at the checkout is often wrong. This is even more so in stores with self-scan checkouts.

Unsurprisingly, the results of sales-based ordering and subsequent production planning for unwrapped products in these stores’ bakeries are far from optimal. In fact, some retailers opt instead for basing their plans entirely on production data. Either way, the same realities apply when it comes to correlation with their sales figures.

To address this widespread headache for bakery production planning, BakePlan was developed to allow ordering and production plans to be either sales or usage-based or a combination of the two.

The in-store bakery team use tablets or hand-held devices to capture what they have produced and wasted during the day, thereby giving a calculated sales/usage figure. This is the same data they currently capture elsewhere, meaning that there are no additional labour costs.

BakePlan still takes a live sales feed to generate the production plan for wrapped products based upon sales, while at the same time generating the plan for the unwrapped products based on usage and/or sales.

This aspect of BakePlan appears to be quite unique compared to other systems, even though it is essential to greatly improving the accuracy of production planning. No longer do bakers have to make a best estimate when deciding how many almond croissants were wrongly sold as all-butter croissants when they plan next week’s production.

Jane Tyler is the managing director of BakePlan, the vice chair of the British Society of Baking and the creator of the Cybake family of bakery management solutions.