Automatic Planogram compliance – Saving millions of hours

Automatic Planogram compliance – Saving millions of hours

A smart phone application was developed to automate the counting of products in retail environments by taking pictures of shelves and then processing those images to automatically provide statistics on the number of facings, the in-store planogram, and the percentage of shelf ownership. This information is centralized and the information is made available to the head office and the store agent even before the agent has had time to leave the building.

Supermarkets and manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or consumer packaged goods (CPG) have sales agents that visit supermarkets millions of times per year. These sales reps perform time consuming data capturing tasks:

  • Manually count the number of facings of (competitor’s) products
  • Measure linear shelf share
  • Find missing Skus ofr an out of stock list
  • Perform manual planogram compliance checks
  • Track and report competitive activity
  • Start a computer, open the software, and manually enter the information

Needless to say, this is a time consuming task that could be better spent on other things such as talking to the store manager. In addition, accuracy is based ONLY on a manual count with no verification.

A smart phone and tablet solution was developed by creating state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms and some hefty back-end cloud processing to provide near real-time counting and reporting. Current state-of-the-art algorithms proved not to be powerful enough and to ramp up recognition performance a LOT of enhancements and tricks had to be applied (sorry I can’t mention them, these are trade secrets). Ultimately, acquiring 100% recognition has become possible and hundreds of products can be automatically recognised in a single image.

Because this solution saves millions of hours of time it’s naturally a huge money saver. It has become an essential tool to gain strategic insight into retail operations and many retailers and FMCG companies could no longer imagine running operations without these real-time insights into their own business as well as into that of their competitors.

Image recognition expertise was provided for this project at the request of a retail technology company. This company is now one of the leading global players for automated planogram creation and in-store intelligence.

Automated planogram creation

A planogram represents how the products should be displayed. We created the word real-o-gram to refer to the layout of the products as they actually are in the store. Automated planogram extraction, how does this work?

  1. The sales reps capture images of the shelves, using any kind of smart phone (iPhone, Android, Windows 8) or tablet (iPad, Android)
  2. The shelf images are analyzed. The photos are sent automatically to the server after which software reconstructs the photos and analyzes the full shelf, creating immediate reports of the status of the products on the shelf.
  3. Planogram compliance is checked. The realograms are compared to the planograms and compliance reports are produced producing KPI metrics such as the number of facings, shelf-share / percentage of shelf ownership, out-of-stock, initiative monitoring, and competitor analysis.
  4. The reports can be viewed in real-time, anywhere, and on any device. The sales rep receives the reports in real time on his device and on the web. Consolidated reports are available for top management.

How do I get this retail solution or more information?

Contact me here to send me a personal message to receive more information on this retail Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, if you have potential opportunities, or if you have interesting (technical) business problems that you need someone to bash their head against. 

Take note that this domain is fairly protected by patents, so the goal is always to find solutions that also minimises legal risks. As an independent contractor I deliver honest and unbiased consultancy services to suggest and/or create solutions best adapted to your business problems.

UPDATE: The pharmaceutical industry

Recently there’s been a strong demand coming from the pharmaceutical industry for this type of asset tracking solution. The needs are the same: track what’s being sold in pharmacies and agents and sales reps go from pharmacy to pharmacy and take pictures of the investors that needs to be automatically assessed. The automated camera-based inventory tracking system works perfectly as well for the pharmaceutical industry (the only different is that there are more constraints on the where images are stored and processed)!!!

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