Woolies pushes supply chain tech to NZ

The technology that changed the supermarket game in Australia is to be implemented in NZ this year

Retail giant Woolworths has started bringing the successful supermarket supply-chain systems it has developed over the past decade in Australia to its other lines of business, including its New Zealand supermarkets.

"The intellectual property we have developed in our supply-chain systems, IT systems and distribution centres is now being applied to other businesses in Woolworths, including New Zealand Supermarkets, Liquor, Big W and Dick Smith Electronics," group chief executive Michael Luscombe said this week.

In comments published in the group's half-yearly results briefing notes, Luscombe praised the performance of systems like AutoStockR and StockSmart, developed as part of Woolworths' Project Refresh, a project begun in 1999 under then-CEO Roger Corbett.

"Our IT platform continues to perform exceptionally well," says Luscombe. "This provides Woolworths with an enhanced ability to plan and manage volumes across the distribution and store network, providing lower costs and improved in-stock positions. We continue to refine and improve our IT capabilities, which will continue to provide further benefits."

The expansion comes as the CEO says Woolworths had completed a substantial portion of its supply-chain redevelopment program.

StockSmart and AutoStockR are being introduced in New Zealand, with Woolworths expecting to complete the implementation by the end of the year, as part of a wider supply-chain strategy in Woolworths' Kiwi operation that will be implemented over the next three years.

Liquor stores such as BWS and Dan Murphy's will receive the supply-chain systems this year.

With regards to Woolworths' large Big W division, Luscombe says the company has established a new supply-chain development program dubbed "Quicksilver". The code name is reminiscent of Project Refresh's third stage, the estimated A$1 billion Project Mercury.

In Quicksilver, Woolworths will build on AutoStockR's store forecast replenishment systems implemented during Mercury.

The difference between Woolworths and its main Australian rival, Wesfarmers-owned Coles Group, when it comes to the use of technology as a business enabler could not be more stark.

Last week, The Australian Financial Review revealed that long-time Coles chief information officer Peter Mahler had resigned as Wesfarmers moved to break up Coles's massive IT operation into smaller parts, following its A$18 billion takeover of the retailer last year.

Coles has long been seen as lagging behind Woolworths when it comes to the use of technology, although Mahler had done much during his six years at the company to rejuvenate its systems, and consolidate infrastructure onto standardised technology platforms.

Woolworths' interim chief information officer Daniel Beecham was not available for comment.

— Australian Financial Review

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