Building Automation: The Right Ingredient for Grocers

Historically, the grocery industry has been amongst the slowest verticals to embrace building automation. After all, the sector— known for its thin margins— was hesitant to spend money on warehouse, distribution center and storefront location automation systems.

Over the past few years, however, that trend has changed as M2M solutions have become more affordable and technology has advanced. In fact, several of the country's largest grocery chains are now fully automating their locations and in an extremely competitive industry, others are sure to follow. Here are some of the most useful IoT gateway applications of building automation for grocers:

Refrigeration regulation and monitoring

Like the restaurant industry, food spoilage and waste is a major problem for grocers. Every year in the U.S., 33 million tons of food waste goes to landfills and one-third of all the food produced globally every year goes to waste.

Refrigeration automation can help grocers cut down on the food—and the money—they waste in several ways. For food products that need to be stored at specific temperatures grocers can create automation rules that keep temperatures in an acceptable range at all times and alert managers if the temperature is reaching unsafe levels because of any malfunction.

A smart refrigerator can also keep track of when items are approaching an expiration date so a warehouse can be sure to ship them out to store locations and locations can move those items to the front of displays to increase the likelihood that they are purchased.

Operation and maintenance of heavy machinery

As is the case in most industries, grocery warehouses use heavy machinery like cranes and forklifts to move crates and boxes around. In some cases, these machines can now be operated with automation technology, ensuring items that are being prepped for shipping, for example, are moved to the loading dock at the appropriate time. Cutting down on the amount of time warehouse workers spend lifting heavy boxes and equipment can also help cut down on the back and neck injuries that have historically plagued the industry.

Automation can also monitor the equipment for any maintenance issues. In some cases, the machine can self-correct the problem, but at the very least, if a problem is detected a supervisor is alerted.

In-store checkout kiosks

Whether they are located in the self-service or cashier lines, keeping kiosks operating seamlessly helps customers pay quickly and easily when they are ready to leave. Scales for weighing produce are often located at the front of these lines and automation ensures these devices are accurate and alerts a manager if a problem is detected.

Automation rules can also be configured to automatically identify special deals for customers during check out so they can take full advantage of "two for one" kinds of promotions. When combined, the benefits of automated kiosks lead to increased efficiency and higher levels of customer satisfaction.