The Grocery Shopping Experience Reimagined with HPC and AI


October 12, 2021

Grocery stores work hard to provide fresh food for consumers at competitive prices. In recent years, major grocery chains began using advanced technologies to help them stock their shelves and to ensure they always offer fair prices. The use of high-performance computing (HPC) enables grocery stores to quickly track inventory, manage warehouses and orders, and keep an eye out for deals that will attract customers.

High-Performance Computing Overview

To understand how grocery stores use HPC to increase their bottom line, we’ll start with a brief overview of HPC. High-performance computing refers to computer hardware architectures designed to deliver access to optimized high-performance computing (HPC) applications. For example, the processors used in these systems are typically multi-core CPUs rather than single-core. These include Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors - which have a high-performance interface and provide computing power in a small form factor - as well as CPUs.

Delivery Services

drone warehouse deliveryIf a grocery store can't stock all of its merchandise, there's only one way it will be able to meet consumer desire: through delivery services. In addition to stocking groceries and other products from outside suppliers, these services also help retailers get rid of excess inventory by selling them directly to customers. 

And if customers don't pick up their orders? Grocery stores still benefit from reduced labor costs associated with restocking shelves and increased revenue from selling surplus inventory.

The delivery process is handled by HPC that interfaces with third-party logistics companies (3PLs) to ensure that orders are filled on time. One of the reasons why 3PLs like this arrangement is because HPC makes it possible for them to manage multiple warehouses simultaneously using a single interface. This reduces the overhead required to monitor each location compared to manual monitoring, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Delivering groceries to customers requires the use of big data analytics to predict when shoppers will need additional items. With this information, grocery stores can ensure that they're never out of stock without wasting excessive resources by making deliveries more frequent than necessary.  See how Kroger uses HPC and AI to fulfill customer delivery orders

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Consumer Experiences in High-Tech Grocery Stores

Amazon Go HPC AIRetail leaders including Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger use computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning to enable a touch-free checkout experience at some locations.

Simply walk into one of their specialty stores, such as Amazon Go, open the store’s iOS or Android app on your smartphone, and shop as you normally would.

If you change your mind about a product you’ve put in your cart, simply return it to the shelf and you won’t be charged for it.  Upon exiting the store the credit card linked to the store’s app on your smartphone is charged and a receipt is emailed to you. 

Inventory Management

HPC AI inventory managementWhen customers come into a grocery store, they expect to see everything on the shelves where it should be. In order to maintain this appearance of full shelves, grocery stores use dynamic merchandising systems that automatically monitor how much of each item is in stock.  

Dynamic merchandising systems are enabled by HPC that allows grocery store managers to monitor multiple points on their shelves at the same time using advanced imaging techniques. With this information, they can determine when an item needs to be reordered so it's never out of stock.

These tasks are made possible by technologies including:

Optical Recognition and Barcode Scanning

  • Uses optical scanning of barcodes on products to track inventory. When the product is scanned, the HPC system tracks what store it was scanned in, what aisle it was on, and how many units of that item are left. The system also automatically organizes the items into separate categories such as dairy, bread, and beverages. This allows managers to quickly find out which items need replenishing.
  • Advanced Imaging
    Uses advanced imaging techniques like computer vision and machine learning to monitor shelf stock. This allows managers to count individual boxes - not just the larger pallets - without human intervention. It can even detect when a skid has been disrupted and alert staff members so they can fix the situation before it's a problem.
  • Mobile Devices
    Mobile devices are used to wirelessly transmit information from end-user sensors - like weight scales, barcode readers, and other input devices - to centrally located HPC systems. This allows managers to monitor conditions in real-time instead of having to visit each location manually, which is inefficient and potentially unsafe if there are issues that need immediate resolution.

Employee and Product Safety

Employee package safety HPC AI softwareBeyond keeping shelves stocked, HPC helps grocery stores keep their employees safe by improving safety standards at each point along the supply chain. From receiving to distributing, using advanced imaging techniques at every step makes it easier for employers to detect potential hazards or food quality issues. 

For example, warehouses use computer vision software that identifies damaged packages in the warehouse before they go out to stores. This means that when an order is delivered to the store, the customer isn't met with damaged goods.

By improving safety standards at each point along the supply chain, HPC helps grocery stores keep employees safe while enhancing the retail experience for customers.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how retailers can benefit from HPC requires a basic understanding of the supply chain process. Once this foundation is established, it's easy to see why companies in all industries are turning to HPC technologies to make their business more cost-effective and efficient.

For grocery stores, using HPC systems for dynamic merchandising solutions is a win-win situation: Stores make more profit from selling products that aren't always available while customers get what they want when they want it. 

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated, associated with, or in any way represent Kroger, Amazon, or Walmart.