Accelerated time to value and low IT lift: the new standard for deploying fresh technology


Accelerated time to value and low IT lift: the new standard for deploying fresh technology

For the past three decades, traditional tools have made it challenging for grocers to capture the business value of fresh, a significant missed opportunity at a time when fresh is increasingly important to consumers. This is because existing options built for center store assume perfect and predictable inputs, and thus break down in the messy and imperfect world of fresh data. Ultimately, grocers have been stuck operating with unreliable inventory numbers and inefficient operations, further compounded by low user trust and low process adherence. 

Now, the grocery industry is experiencing new opportunities for growth with purpose-built tools for modernizing their supply chains. As members of a highly competitive market, this is a critical opportunity to realize higher profits, faster inventory turns, and fresher food for customers. At the heart of this digital transformation are IT departments, which play a significant role in driving innovation and operational efficiency in modern grocery stores. 

While essential for streamlining processes across organizations, implementing IT tools is no easy undertaking. IT teams often oversee labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive implementation processes, with no promise of eventual success. The stakes are even higher in fresh  — a complex and critical category where ill-fitting technology results in spoiled foods and narrowed profit margins.

Afresh is overcoming the challenges of fresh food by transforming the grocery supply chain, enabling our partners to realize top-line sales growth, dramatic shrink reduction, faster inventory turns, and vastly more efficient department operations. We’re here to revolutionize every aspect of fresh supply chain solutions — starting with the set-up and deployment process. To better partner with IT teams who are more resource-constrained now than ever, we’ve engineered our entire system to ensure a lightweight lift and accelerated time to value. 

Just because fresh food is challenging and complex, doesn’t mean implementing fresh technology needs to be.

"We chose Afresh over other solutions because of their modern cloud-based architecture, non-reliance on perpetual inventory, and the ease of integration. We want to transform our fresh departments, and Afresh is the best for that job."  -Luke Anderson, CIO of Cub

A flexible approach tailored to partner needs

The Afresh team takes on the heavy lifting at every step to ensure minimal operational and IT resource expenditure for our partners. To the greatest extent possible, we:

1. Leverage existing data — All we need is a one-time transfer of historical data to train the machine learning models, then a daily transfer of data inputs to power Afresh’s AI recommendations. No need to set up new ERP tools/infrastructure — our team leverages whatever systems partners use today and reuses existing data feeds whenever possible.

2. Spearhead customer data transformations — Our team takes on the heavy lifting of custom transforms to meet Afresh schema needs, meaning IT teams are not expected to adhere to rigorous reformatting requirements.

3. Require minimal data cleanup — Gone are the days of tedious data cleanup. We understand and account for the imperfect, incomplete nature of fresh data, from initial setup to ongoing maintenance.

4. Match existing upstream file formats — When stores place orders in the Afresh app, Afresh creates an order output file that can be seamlessly ingested by partners’ existing systems, then routed to warehouses or third-party vendors without further manipulation.

At Afresh, we’re committed to helping partners realize the full potential of their fresh categories while protecting limited labor resources. Our approach is designed to work with our partners’ existing systems, so grocers aren’t required to do the excruciating, time-consuming cleanup of long-tail data issues encountered in all-in-one systems. As such, the typical pilot integration with Afresh takes months, not years to complete. To then go from pilot to full chainwide rollout again takes just months, and partners quickly see a positive impact on their bottom line.

“[Afresh would be grocery retailers’] biggest return on an IT investment, in produce alone.” -James McCann, Former CEO of Ahold USA

Overview of the Afresh implementation process

Prior to any contractual commitment, we start with an in-depth discovery process. This due diligence ensures we are able to understand our partners’ existing business and technical systems up-front and can confidently share the anticipated scope of effort required for Afresh’s technical integration. 

Once a contract is agreed upon, we provide a dedicated Afresh Deployment Lead and Integration Engineer to help partners understand every aspect and keep things on track. We work with our partners’ assigned project teams from Merchandising, Operations, Supply Chain, and IT to complete the phases as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

To start the integration, IT teams share their readily available, standard data feeds. Our engineering and integration teams then ingest partner data, creating a custom transformation layer for each input that takes the raw data and maps it to our internal schemas. This custom transformation means that partners only need to share existing files with Afresh’s secure, Azure-based cloud platform, as opposed to creating brand new files in rigorous formats.

Once onboarded, Afresh doesn’t require constant maintenance like typical inventory and replenishment solutions. Rather than requiring analysts to monitor and adjust forecasts as with traditional systems, Afresh is as “set it and forget it” as they come. And end-user solutions are also easy to set up and maintain — store teams leverage an iPad to access easy-to-use workflows and corporate teams access a web portal to streamline store operations tasks.

"Afresh has been an incredibly supportive and proactive partner as we've implemented their produce solution across all of our corporate stores… [h]aving a lightweight, fully comprehensive solution that connects across other fresh departments should unlock even more benefits for our customers and store teams."  -Luke Anderson, CIO of Cub

While once seen as a cost center, IT is now driving critical innovation in the dynamic, competitive grocery landscape. And with Afresh, IT leaders have the opportunity to achieve meaningful bottom-line improvements that impact every part of the business.

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