For most companies, their workforce is the largest cost center in their retail operations. That’s why it’s so significant that Swedish grocery retailer Coop Värmland saved a remarkable 6-8% on personnel costs by using RELEX’s workforce optimization solution in their stores. Moreover, by ensuring they have staff scheduled when needed and not scheduled during low-workload windows, they’ve seen improvements in both employee engagement and store aesthetics, with fully stocked shelves and tidier aisles.
Coop Värmland first implemented RELEX’s forecasting and replenishment solution in 2015 with excellent results, including higher on-shelf availability, a higher degree of automation, and less spoilage.
In 2018, they set their sights on improving their workforce management processes, initially seeking a simple system to handle staff time and attendance, and to publish shifts. However, the company quickly saw the advantages of utilizing their supply chain data to optimize work shifts in stores, so they chose to implement RELEX’s solutions for workforce optimization and management.
The new workforce solution builds on Coop Värmland’s existing RELEX forecasting and replenishment solution and uses data it was already generating, such as sales and delivery forecasts. They seized the opportunity to generate the efficiency gains they had already seen from their supply chain operations transformation, but now in their workforce planning.
Using Demand Forecasts for Efficient Workforce Planning
Previously, workforce scheduling had been executed by store managers. Scheduling processes varied from store to store, with each manager effectively developing their own method of completing the task. Because planning was quite time-consuming, schedules were routinely copy-and-pasted from one year to the next.
The introduction of optimization, however, has driven significant improvements. Because Coop Värmland already uses RELEX’s forecasting and replenishment system, they can accurately plan for when deliveries are expected to arrive, as well as predict customer footfall and sales peaks throughout the day for each store, for each day of the year.
This supply chain data is then used by RELEX’s workforce optimization tool to enhance schedule planning so staff are available when needed. The system factors in valuable information from HR and store managers regarding employee skills in each area of operations — for instance, whether an employee has deli counter or checkout experience. Finally, the solution takes into account the requirements stipulated by employment laws, collective agreements, and employee contracts, ensuring that planned shifts automatically comply with their terms.
Work Shifts That Better Match the Workload
Managers can more easily review shifts, make amendments, and note time and attendance, including sick leave or holidays. The solution automatically interprets all shifts for payroll, saving further time.
“By using demand forecasts that we already get from RELEX, we can better match the planned work shifts with the actual workload, which makes us more efficient, saves us money, and makes the workforce planning process much more transparent than before,” says Coop Värmland’s CIO Thomas Berglund.
The initial reaction from managers, staff, and unions to the system has been enthusiastic.
“In the past, workplace rights have been at risk of getting lost in the mix because of the sheer complexity of shift planning,” says Kent Jansson, Union Representative at Coop Värmland. “Having a system that automatically takes agreements and employment law into account and that also gives staff more flexibility — it’s a big step forward. Everyone wins.”
Colleagues also enjoy a greater degree of flexibility in working hours because the system can execute complex planning processes that accommodate employee’s individual wishes and needs. What was once a headache for busy store managers is now a simple calculation for RELEX’s software. Staff have seen the ability to view schedules from their mobile devices as a big plus, as well.
The initial results from the project are very positive. Not only have personnel costs dropped 6-8% where RELEX is in use, the solution has also considerably lightened the workload for store managers. In seconds, RELEX completes planning that previously cost each store manager hours of work. Now, store managers need only make small adjustments as needed, saving valuable time.
“The optimized shifts look really good, and the planning process is fast. By linking shift planning to demand forecasts and the incoming delivery schedule, it’s simply far easier to ensure we have the right people available for the tasks that need doing,” says Jonas Helgman, Store Manager at Coop Värmland. “So when deliveries arrive stock gets shelved immediately and there are no half-empty pallets waiting to be cleared. Not only do the shelves look better, but so does the whole store — and the customers notice and appreciate that.”
Thomas Berglund, CIO at Coop Värmland, says “In today’s retail environment, survival is often about seizing every tiny efficiency gain one can. Coop Värmland and RELEX have worked very closely together to ensure we are leading the way on this, and the result will be cost savings, better organized stores, and a better customer experience.”