;; APRIL ;;;; WINSIGHT GROCERY BUSINESS
Technology Operations & Supply Chain
Needs and Desires
A good scheduling system must also be able to process
not only the store’s needs, but also the employees’ desires.
Irregular scheduling, with “shifting shifts,” is one of the
biggest complaints of hourly retail workers in grocery and
other sectors regarding their jobs.
Used properly, scheduling software can help stores
conform to employees’ desired work schedules as much
“Those kinds of tools built within a software solution
can certainly improve work-life balance for employees
with more predictable schedules,” says Amber Onstot,
a client relations specialist with Business Management
Systems, maker of Snap Schedule software.
All these variables make scheduling one of the most
daunting tasks in the grocery sector. Software can greatly
help—if it’s the right kind.
“The scheduling engines need to be quite sophisticated
to be able to handle knowing when to place the work, who
has the skills to perform the work and the availabilities of
the associates,” says Rick Schlenker, co-founder and EVP
of sales and marketing for Logile Inc. “And then when it
produces a schedule, it has to do a good job load-balanc-
ing … the distribution of how the hours are placed, while
still meeting all of the business rules and also the employ-
ees’ preferences. It’s a lot easier said than done, and many
systems will fall apart when you try to get it to do all of
those things together.”
The unique nature of departmental work in a grocery
store presents one of the major challenges of scheduling
software. It’s common for employees to jump between
tasks and to qualify for more than one specialized task.
This is often required because demand in different
departments or areas might surge at di;erent times.
The key is to schedule not by the role, the job or the
shift, but by the task, says Schlenker. To that end, he
says, schedules are based on the task level, “so that peo-
ple are scheduled across departments and across duties,
to make up their eight-hour shifts to leverage that pool
of hours.” An individual worker might spend a couple
of hours at the bakery counter, then help stock shelves
for the next two hours, then put in the next two at the
To generate schedules that provide labor where it is
needed, a system should be able to take in and process
data from other sources, both within and outside the
store. This is most often point-of-sale data, both overall
and within departments.
Tracking sales by category, or even by individual items,
can greatly help with predicting things such as when it will
become necessary to restock a certain area. Other store
data can be useful in that way as well: “Some grocers
might have a digital weigh scale in the meat department
so that they know exactly how much meat is weighed, and
it’s time-stamped by time and date, so that can be used as
historical data,” says Leibach of ADP.
Stores that use computer-generated schedules should
be able to evaluate and tweak them regularly to maximize
ef;iciency. Leibach refers to a metric he calls “earned
hours”: Simply put, it uses historical data to express how
many hours of labor in a given area of the store at a given
time were justi;ed by sales in that time and place, and
compares it to actual hours worked there during that time.
Schlenker says Logile can compare three versions of
any given store schedule: the one it generated, the one
that resulted after changes made by store managers
; which often happens;, and the one that actually occurred.
When sales volume is added, Logile can determine how
sta;ng actually needed to be structured, which can help
guide future scheduling.
We have our daily sales broken down
hourly—including number of sales per
hour and transactions per hour—from
our POS that goes directly into our
forecasting tool.” —Richard Blandini, New Seasons Market
and actual revenue
and hours worked
for given periods