Kroger’s Enhanced Technology for a Quicker Checkout

We live in a society dependent on technology and in the world of business, technology has helped in developing various systems to improve day-to-day business activities and satisfy both the consumers and the producers.

Customers are always anticipating the endless wait in checkout lines.  Sometimes if feels like the line has not moved for the past 10 minutes, but switching to a different line puts them at a risk that it might be even longer. Is the item really worth waiting in line for? Is it easier to bail and just buy it online or at a different store? Numerous retail stores are trying to find new ways to get the shoppers through with ease as online shopping is increasing and as long lines threaten sales and loss of loyal customers. 

 Kroger Co., a supermarket giant, has installed infrared cameras to aid in lengthy checkout lines in about 2,400 its stores. The cameras, which detect body heat and have been used in the past by the military for surveillance purposes, are paired with Kroger’s in-house software in order to decide the number of lanes that need to be open. Not only has this new technology allowed the stores to operate with lower labor expenses, but it also has reduced the customer’s average wait time spent in line. 

Competition in the retail industry is high and for companies to enhance the shopping experience and speed up service for each of their customers is a top-notch priority. Since the checkout lines are the last thing the customer experiences, the longer the  time is wasted waiting in line, the less satisfied the customer is leaving the store. The ultimate focus for Kroger and any other business is its consistent customers, and according to Kroger’s surveys, the customers believe the checkout speed has been much quicker since the installment of the cameras.

Kroger’s system, QueVision, which is now in about 95% of its stores, forecasts the length of time customers spend shopping based on the time and day as well as determines the number of lanes that need to be open. In addition, QueVision data shows the amount as well as type of items purchased by the times of day, and by adding more express lanes and boosting certain orders, Kroger has improved its operations as sales have increased by 13% in the past year.

Kroger’s goal is to please their customers so that they enjoy their entire experience so much that they will come back again and again. They are gradually improving the QueVision software system to predict shopping behavior and fix the checkout lanes procedure in order to get the shoppers out more quickly and make the checkout experience the best that it can be.

The most important way to create loyal customers is to understand their shopping trips and make them as personalized as possible so they will always come back. Making improvements is a continuous process. What other approaches could retailers take to better the overall shopping experience?

Article: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/krogers-weapon-infrared-cameras-011800830.html

 

CBS on the Go!

With increasing number of people traveling for work and for pleasure with availability of faster Internet has increased the demand for live TV programs on Internet. Recognizing these consumers’ wants, CBS announced investing in Syncback. Syncback is a company, developing technology to stream local TV programs live to computers, tablets, and smartphones. This technology uses authentication system that checks that only authorize users, subscribed from local area, are watching streamed programs. Thus, it gives control over programming and viewer to TV channels.

This decision of making investment and becoming the part of the owner of Syncback has various operation management reasons. One of the main reasons is threat from Internet it self and companies like Aereo, Inc. It provides local over the air programs by streaming them to the customers by charging $8 to $12 a month. However, these programs suppose to be free and Aereo is doing this without TV channels’ permission. Therefore, channels like FOX, ABC, and CBS have sued Aereo, Inc. and trying to control over the air programming by streaming them by them selves using technology like Syncback.

Furthermore, there is no legal live streaming of the TV programs online, only alternatives are Netflix and Hulu.com, through which viewers can only access past aired episodes and for that they have to wait few days. CBS has seen potential in this opportunity and is trying to take it. If their research is successful, they can get more subscribers, as they will be one of few live streaming TV channels. At the same time, with Syncback’s Authentication technology, they will be able to control their programs and limit them to only locals. With other services, they do not have this control.

The third reason for investing in Syncback is related to supply-chain management. As the Coca-Cola Company produces their own bottles to reduce the cost; thus make more profit because they have resources to do that. Similarly, CBS had excess of fund, which they can invest and by investing in Syncback they can earn more money through subscribers by charging monthly fee, as they are part owner. Where as, if they had sold their rights to broadcast, they would have gotten only fraction of money as royalty, and also lose some control over programming as they sign off the rights. Thus, according to CBS, pairing with Syncback would add value to their company in long run.

The concern that bothers the stakeholder of CBS is that is it good idea to invest in company that is still in introduction cycle with trial and error, while there are other alternatives that people already use to access TV shows online for free. Because of that reason, the stocks of the CBS have not had any positive effects on them. Personally, I think that investing in Syncback was a smart move and will definitely bring profit to CBS.

Do you think investment in Syncback was right move? Or they should have just sold the rights for streaming? Do you think that the online service should be free to current subscribers?

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323735604578438801962307318.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-22/cbs-invests-in-startup-that-lets-local-tv-stations-stream-online.html

 

Socialcast: Facebook for business or an innovative way for collaboration?

Source: http://www.socialcast.com/

Socialcast is cloud-based social network for business that aims at easing communication between employees and vendors. Its platform allows employees to share ideas, documents, videos, and seek for help, when needed.

VMware bought Socialcast in May 2011, when the company was just starting to target business with its goal of easing internal communication. VMWare, with it new update in mid-April, transformed Socialcast from merely a commination tool, to a dream product for any Project Manager.

VMWare, through Socialcast, wants to alter the way businesses access information by improving business processes. The new update is especially important for Project Managers as it integrates multiple different systems, such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), Sharepoint (document management software), email, and other applications. It creates a centralized workspace that helps Project Manager to keep track of deliverables and critical activities through communication with the team.

The new update also allows for instant messaging feature, called Socialcast Messenger, that is available on the platform as well as on mobile devices. While it is not an innovative feature, the IM keeps employees off using other massagers, such as Google Chat, and instead, keeps the communication centralized. Socialcast also allows employees to post updates, such a new security policy, and lets others in the company to comment on the post.

DePaul IT department, at which I am currently employed in as a Help Desk Analyst, uses similar features that Socialcast provides. We have a database, called DePaul University Knowledgebase or the “Wiki,” where specialists from different IT teams post documents and articles on various topics. This is especially helpful for my team because it aids in troubleshooting a technical problem. There are documents ranging from security polices to instructions on how to install various programs, such as SPSS, on DePaul machines. The Knowledgebase is especially useful for new employees, as they are not familiar with DePaul technology policies.

Socialcast Broadcast. Does this look like a Facebook wall?
Source: http://www.socialcast.com/

We also use internal instant messaging to aid in communication between different teams. I can communicate with my supervisor instantly without the hassle of e-mails. I personally find the IM and the Knowledgebase very useful, as I don’t need to get away from my desk and take time from others to ask questions that can be otherwise answered with a support document.

While Socialcast is useful for employees to familiarize themselves with the company’s policies and seek help, how much does it look to you like Facebook, but just for business? Even the platform of Socialcast looks very much alike the Facebook wall. The idea of Socialcast new update is to centralize the workspace and minimize e-mail communication, or even eliminate meetings. Has the way we communicate changed so drastically that we no longer seek face-to-face interaction even in the workplace? What do you think of the new Project Management update to Socialcast?

 

—–

Sources: 

Socialcast Website

VMware Adds Project Management, Secure IM to Socialcast Platform By Thor Olavsrud. April 18, 2013. 

VMware Updates SocialCast With Private Messaging By Chris Preimesberger. April 22, 2013. 

 

 

 

The End of A Dynasty?: Clash Between Industry Titans

 

The battle for technological dominance is beginning to heat up. Apple and Samsung have been at each other’s throats competing over market share and cultural relevance for years now, with Apple seeming to come away the victor year after year. However, the momentum has seemed to shift in Samsung’s favor recently. So why the sudden change? In 2013, Samsung took a huge leap forward against their arch rival by enjoying a monumental 56% surge in sales pertaining to smart-phones. Whereas Apple only saw a disappointing 6.6% increase in sales within the smart-phone sector. Samsung now has a stranglehold on the market share, controlling 33% of the smart-phone division compared to Apple’s mere 18%. With this sudden charge in 2013, Samsung experienced soaring profits and revenue sales of $47.6 billion, a 17% increase compared to Apple’s 11% increase.

People are beginning to wonder why Apple has become so stagnant with their products, while Samsung continues to innovate, push the limits, and surpass new boundaries as a organization. As we all know, Apple as a company has gone through major changes when it comes to management ever since the passing of their charismatic and brilliant leader Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. However, they are not helping themselves with their lack of new products entering the market, along with their rather “elementary” tweaks to the iPhone 5 that have left many longtime customers of Apple disappointed and looking elsewhere for new and innovative mobile devices. For example, Apple upset a good portion of their customer base by changing the adapter that charges the battery life for a majority of Apple products. One of the major draws for Apple’s iPhone line was the fact that their mobile devices had become standardized with the ability for users to charge their phones just about anywhere, even if they forgot their phone charger because they could just use someone else’s. All the while Samsung continues to focus on the quality of their products by offering a wider range of specifications regarding smart-phones that have consumers clamoring for more. Also, Samsung’s new handset, the Galaxy S4, has premiered to critical acclaim among customers and could potentially threaten Apple’s iPhone as the gold standard among smart-phones in the industry.

Samsung has been able to achieve this triumphant comeback through intense quality focus and strong leadership throughout the organization. Especially at the top with former Chairman Kun-Hee Lee who strove for product quality so much that he took a trip to one of the company’s plants that had developed a batch of defected products and required all 2,000 employees to wear headbands that read, “Quality First”. Through this philosophy, Samsung has been able to efficiently produce quality products at a cheaper price compared to industry standards, which in turn allows them to charge a higher price that consumers are willing to spend. The end result, an incredible first quarter of 2013 for Samsung and a devastating blow to Apple. Will Apple recover from this disappointing 2013 start? Possibly with  the iPhone-5S. Or will Samsung continue jabbing away at heavyweight champ?

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2013/04/26/samsung-trouncing-apple-gangnam-style/

 

Infer: Better Math Can Produce More Sales

Infer is a company that develops technology that allows company’s sales-tracking system to rank customer leads based on how likely they are going to purchase something. The company has raised 10 million over the last two years while working on this technology. Infer is rather simple as its software starts with basic information. For example, if a customer decides to enter their name, address and company when signing up for a product. The Infer system will then start doing research behind the person that signed up for the product.

The CEO, Vik Singh is young as he is only 28 years old, but he believes that his mathematical formulas will increase sales. Vik Singh and his 10-employee team are in the midst of improving sales by using better math.

Vik doesn’t seem to be short on confidence as he feels that this new  innovation is sure to help increase sales. The problem is the fact that he is  very young and there may not be that many people that believe in his new ideas. He may not be the best person to trust for sales, but he certainly has the right engineering track record. He worked with Google fine tuning search systems before moving to Microsoft. At Microsoft, he developed technology with Jim Gray, who of the greatest computer scientists of the last half century. He finished working with Microsoft and built a new Yahoo search system.

Vik Singh has worked with some of the biggest technology gurus in the world. Vik Singh says, ” The way the typical company manages data is piss-poor in comparison and there is more science at Facebook (FB) behind seeing which of your friends are getting drunk across the street from you.” This seems to be a common theme with all the new web-savvy engineers that are trying to make new rules for business applications. Vik Singh wants to treat sales deals like a puzzle. If Infer can makes their sales deal like a puzzle then it can be solved with an algorithm rather than a dinner between people who have ideas.

Infer has worked with Box and other customers to verify their research. It works with historic sales and compares outcomes with their own predictions. Singh continues to tell everyone that the experiments come out nearly perfect, but he has not released any proof of this for businesses to see. In my opinion, there are a lot of other things that factor in when dealing with sales. There needs to be more facts when trying to rely on just math to increase sales. From a management point of view, I don’t know if Vik is taking things a little too far with all these math equations, but he does have the technology background to speak for him. Then again who has time for someone that is only 28 years old and is trying to change the way selling works?

Links:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-24/infer-promises-more-sales-through-better-math

http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/23/infer/

http://blog.studentrnd.org/post/37455656817/why-asians-are-better-than-americans-at-math

Be GREEN, or be SQUARE!

More and more customers now are looking for companies to be transparent, but it’s kind of hard to be competitive and sustainable at the same time.  Companies are now using value chain processes to get the job done fast.  They are not only focusing on suppliers but also taking into account By-Product-Synergy, which is “taking waste from one part of the production process and using that waste in order to generate a new product.” But how can companies become more sustainable if only “80 percent of management uses just 20% of the available opportunities?!”  The remaining 80 percent is where management needs to focus the rest of their energy.

It’s crucial for management to set goals and assess their risks, thereafter they can easily seek out opportunities for future improvement.  The first step to become a transparent company is to implement a sustainability program, and of course to develop a strategy.  The next step is to identify the companies “main processes and map data throughout the value chain.”  By using life-cycle-assessment software, the companies will have a more clear idea of how to lower their costs.

A similar approach was taken by ThyssenKrupp (FWB: TKA), a German elevator company.  Since ThyssenKrupp uses a considerable amount of steel in the manufacturing process, they thought the operational aspect had the greatest environmental impact. To their surprise,  the “company’s elevators themselves left a greater carbon footprint then their manufacture or any of the company’s other operations.”

As a result, ThyssenKrupp dramatically changed their product line after implementing a sustainability program.  They made the following changes to their products and services:

  • Elevators use LED lights which reduce energy consumption by 80%, and automatic fan and light shutoff which reduces CO2 emissions by 193,000 tons per year.
  • Getting rid of harmful chemicals used to manufacture the elevator.
  • Using petroleum based biodegradable fluid, with a vegetable-based option called “enviromax.”
  • Elevators are equipped with regenerative technology, meaning that the energy generated from the braking system is put back into the building.

In a way the article gives motivation to other companies who are taking their first steps towards becoming a transparent company.  It gives them few ideas and pointers on “unlocking supply-chain opportunities.” It’s important for different industries to decipher various ways to be more environmental friendly.  After all, there is more to being sustainable than just showing off your environmental initiatives.

Do you think ThyssenKrupp can take additional measures to make their company more sustainable?  Or better yet, are there any companies that you want to see become transparent in the near future? How would they need to change there operations?

Links:

http://www.thyssenkruppelevator.com/Sustainability/products-services

http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/04/26/whirlpool-thyssenkrupp-supply-chain-transparency?page=0%2C1

http://opsmgt.edublogs.org/2012/06/28/transforming-waste-into-profit/

 

Google- Future and Change

Over the past year Google has been on a shaky path.  Google’s mobile sector did horribly compared to Apple.  Major competitors were constantly outperforming Google’s productivity and sales.  Despite the threats Google has faced, the company is not worried about their competitors.  According to the article, Google’s shares rose 26% over the past year while their major competitor’s (Apple) shares fell 36% from the previous year.  Google is very optimistic about the future.

 

Google C.E.O., Mr. Page, still holds his head up and says “As C.E.O., it’s also super important to keep focused on the future,” Mr. Page said. “Companies can tend to get comfortable doing what they’ve always done, with a few minor tweaks. It’s only natural to want to work on things you know. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to make you obsolete over time, especially in tech.” (New York Times)

 

I definitely think this is the right attitude to have.  Many companies think of great ideas but then after time they lose the innovation that drives customers wanting more.  Especially since technology is constantly changing, it is so important to keep pivoting ideas.  Google is currently focusing on different strategies and future technology products to help Google gain the creative edge against competitors.  Major projects that Google is thinking about launching are cars that drive themselves and glasses that connect to the internet also known as Google Glass. (Talk about a major headache).  But these ideas are what keep people talking and coming back to see what is going on.  Companies need to keep changing their ideas in order to be successful.

Also the C.E.O. of Google knows that introducing new products  and sales are very important to the business, but that is not the only thing to focus on.  He is a firm believer in control.  He states that the “its core business is being run more efficiently”.  Controlling staff, spending, quality will all impact the company as a whole.  By focusing on efficiency, that will improve the overall quality of the company like we discussed in class during the red bean experiment.

According to the article it seems that the C.E.O. of Google is very proactive which is a good management and leadership skill to have.  He knows that the main focus is quality, which is an important aspect to a company.  He consistently works very hard at improving quality and puts an emphasis on change.  Whenever Google faces a problem or a potential threat, Google responds actively in order to fix the problems.  They focus on the issues head on in order to reduce the possibility of any future threats towards the company.

 

Hopefully Google will really follow through with their future products and have a better year than last year.  I cannot wait to have a car that drives itself!

 

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/technology/googles-earnings-beat-expections-but-revenue-does-not.html?ref=technology

Lapka, the next big thing?

Have you heard of Lapka yet? “Lapka is a personal environment monitor that connects with your phone to measure, collect, and analyze the hidden qualities of your surroundings” (1).  It is a new innovation coming out of Russia. It looks sleek and high tech with a wooden finish. You can now measure your surroundings for yourself and not have to wait for the environmentalists to do it. “Its four sensors analyze and report on radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity, even the level of nitrates in food” (2). Each sensor plugs into an iPhone’s headphone jack to feed its data into software that comes in a form of an Apple App. This new high tech personal gadget will cost you about $220. But is it worth it?

It has its positives and negatives. To me, I feel like a negative would be the paranoia that it will cause some people. To have the ability to actually measure the radiation in the air around you can sometimes put you in a state of worry. We don’t realize how bad the environment is around us, but having the “tools”, so to speak, to measure the levels yourself can show you the true reality of the situation. On the other hand, is it better to know and try to do something about it? Or is it better to be ignorant to the level of radiation your neighborhood has and not think too much about it? I’ve watched a documentary about radition and how bad it can effect you if you live near by a plant or something of the sort, I feel like it’s something people want to look into when moving to a new city or neighborhood. Especially if they have little children who will be outside playing and exposed to it. A positive could be that people will find out the levels of radiation on their own by using this gadget and pressure politicians to regulate more when it comes to radiation, electromagnetic fields, and such. According to the article, officials already have records of the radiation, pollution, and other levels for each city. This just gives consumers the opportunity to measure it themselves using this sensor and their iPhone. Another negative  I see in this would be maybe the loss of future jobs for some environmentalist due to this new, easy way to produce information. Technology seems to be taking over the job world and this might affect it. But at the same time I would like to argue that an educated environmentalist is a much better source than the Lapka and an iPhone.

 

Do you think this will attract consumers and be successful? Or is it another wasted gadget?

Sources:

(1) https://mylapka.com

(2) http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-18/the-good-and-scary-possibilities-of-monitoring-your-personal-space#r=nav-r-story

(Virtual) Food For Thought: Virtual Supermarkets

During this day and age, there are two main themes behind our technological advances as a human race: innovation and convenience. Almost everything is available via the Internet and accessible with our computers or smart phones. We can shop for clothes, order dinner, pay our bills, and do a lot more using our handheld devices. The newest addition to our already impressive lineup is a virtual supermarket. I know what you’re wondering, does this mean I will have to eat virtual food? The answer is no, virtual supermarkets have the same end goal as ordinary grocery stores: you get your produce in your fridge as expected.

Virtual supermarkets started in Japan and South Korea by Tesco Homeplus, a British grocery company. They are strategically located in subway stations alongside the walls and are set up as regular grocery stores, but instead of actual products, there are pictures of the items with a QR code beneath them. Users scan the QR codes with their smart phones and add the items to a virtual shopping cart. Once all of the products are in the cart, the shopper places the order and is charged through their credit card. The groceries then arrive at the person’s doorstep the next day. Virtual supermarkets eliminate the hassle of actually visiting a grocery store, physically carrying the items, and they also save a lot of time for shoppers.

The U.S. has caught on to the craze by introducing virtual supermarkets in Chicago, Boston, New York, and other major metropolitan areas. Peapod, a U.S. grocery company, has taken the initiative by setting up  virtual supermarkets in subway stations just like Japan and South Korea. So far, there has been positive feedback from the younger generation, but  older people prefer to physically visit the stores. This shows that we are truly in an age of innovation and convenience, or that we have become extremely lazy.

An advantage that virtual supermarkets have from an operations management perspective is the management of inventory. By not having the inventory physically present, the products won’t sit on the shelves and companies can place orders for certain items based on the online demand, eliminating backlog.

I believe that having virtual supermarkets is a step forward in the right direction, but this step lacks some benefits that are present when physically being in a store. When I was younger, I used to always accompany my mom to the grocery store and she would tell me how to pick out the ripe fruits, or how to tell similar vegetables apart. She knew exactly what she was getting by touching and feeling the products. Another missing component to virtual grocery shopping is taste-testing the food. Many times we are not certain about what to buy and by trying a sample, we decide whether or not to purchase the product. That is one advantage that places like Costco will have over virtual supermarkets.

Virtual supermarkets define innovation and convenience, but are not for everyone. Would you ever consider using one, and if so, do you see virtual supermarkets replacing physical grocery stores in the future?

Sources:

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/virtual-grocery-shopping-and-v-158354

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/peapod-virtual-grocery-st_n_1929756.html

http://www.zdnet.com/virtual-supermarket-shopping-with-a-smartphone-4010022941/

 

 

High-Speed Internet: Is it Still High-Speed?

This past week Google announced that they are expanding Google Fiber to Austin, Texas. Google Fiber is Google’s version of high-speed Internet, which can download at up to 1000 Mb per second, and digital cable television service. This is 100 times faster than any other Internet provider. Google Fiber also gives you one terabyte of storage, which can be used to record up to eight HD TV shows simultaneously. Google provides you with a brand new Nexus 7, that you use as a remote to control your TV.

Google Fiber is currently only being provided in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO. Future cities that will have Google Fiber are Westwood, KS, Westwood Hills, KS, Mission Woods, KS, Kansas City North, MO, and Kansas City South, MO. Google offers three prices for Google Fiber:

Google Fiber Network Box
  • Gigabit + TV: $120/month ($300 construction fee waived)
  • Gigabit Internet: $70/month ($300 construction fee waived)
  • Free Internet (5 Mb): $0/month (for at least seven years) + $300 construction fee

These higher Internet speeds would eliminate those irritating YouTube buffers and would speed up downloading/uploading files. However, are the benefits of Google’s high-speed Internet worth the cost? It is estimated that it cost Google $11 billion to install Google Fiber nationwide, 20 million homes. That comes out to roughly $550 per home. With Google waiving the $300 construction fee, it would take five monthly payments of the highest-priced service, Gigabit + TV, to pay for the installation of Google Fiber to a home. Google would not start making a profit until five months after installing the service to a home. That is a long time to make a profit. This could prevent expansion to other cities.

In order to receive support from city politicians and residents, Google will install Google Fiber to public institutions for free. Hospitals, schools, community centers, and libraries will get Google Fiber installed for free. The rollout of Google Fiber also creates jobs in the Austin area and creates economic growth.

But is Google Fiber really necessary? The current U.S. average Internet speed is 7.2 Mb per second. While 7.2 Mb is not ultra-fast, it is still quite fast. Should Google not be focusing on expanding Internet access globally? Google should focus their Internet operations strategy on providing access to areas where it does not exist. We can wait for Google Fiber until everyone has access to the Internet first.

Should Google be waiving the $300 construction fee? Is this a smart way to gain customers or is Google only increasing its own expenses? Why is Google only expanding Google Fiber from town to town and not expanding nationally at one time? How are other Internet service providers going to compete with Google Fiber and its amazingly fast speed? What would you do with download speeds of up to 1000 Mb per second? Overall, does Google have good product strategy and project management in regards to the rollout of Google Fiber?

Sources

Analyst: Google Will Spend $84M Building Out KC’s Fiber Network To 149K Homes; $11B If It Went Nationwide: http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/08/google-fiber-cost-estimate/

Austin Next City for Ultra-fast Google Fiber: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-04-09/austin-expected-to-be-next-stop-for-google-fiber

Google Fiber: https://fiber.google.com/about/

Google Fiber Expands TV, Internet to Austin, Texas: http://www.abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2013/04/google-fiber-expands-tv-internet-to-austin-texas

Residents and Businesses Excited for Possibilities Google Fiber Brings: http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/austin/residents-excited-for-possibilities-google-fiber-brings

US Internet Speed Lags Behind S. Korea, Latvia: http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/science_tech/us-internet-speed-lags-behind-s-korea-latvia