It wasn't long ago that the chief purpose of technology was to enhance operational efficiency through the quicker execution of what had been manual activities.
That worked well: Technology made it possible to more effectively schedule labor against peak front-end times; and labor could be redeployed to better advantage, such as by moving random-weight scales out of departments and to the point of purchase. A myriad of background activities, such as disbursing pay or satisfying invoices, also could be performed more efficiently.
In short, technology stripped a big part of the time, drudgery and error potentiality from the performance of many repetitive tasks, making possible a steady advancement in productivity, year after year.
Productivity remains an important consideration to this day, of course, as those now attending the 1996 Food Industry Productivity Conference in Miami Beach, Fla., well know.
But it's also true that there's a lot more to technology today than simply boosting productivity, just as today's computers should be seen as far more than supercharged typewriters.
That important fact of retailing technology will find added expression in each issue of Supermarket News, starting this week.
As of this week, SN editors have retired the long-running Productivity section and in its place rolled out two new sections: "Retail Systems & Marketing" (Page 21), and "Supply Chain & Operations" (Page 57).
Here's the type of news you'll find in the two new sections this week, and in weeks to come:
Retail Systems & Marketing's editorial mission is to show how information technology is best harnessed to effectively target consumers. Topics to be probed weekly include database marketing, customer loyalty programs, electronic commerce, loss-prevention programs, front-end systems, promotional strategies and much more.
Supply Chain & Operations has two editorial objectives. One is to track issues such as the Efficient Consumer Response initiative, activity-based costing, pricing programs and the like. These topics form part of the information mix that will keep you up to date on logistics, distribution, warehousing, transportation and more.
The second objective is to delve into nuts-and-bolts matters, including those of concern at store level, such as new generation coolants, energy efficiency, ergonomic issues, equipment and more.
The two new weekly sections are under the editorship of Senior Section Editor Marc Millstein, who headed the now-retired Productivity section.
SN's shift to these new sections is in keeping with editors' ongoing commitment to make sure SN's pages properly express current industry thinking. In a similar vein, SN retired its Fresh Foods section in July, rolling out two new weekly sections, "Fresh Meals" and "Fresh Markets," to give proper weight to the emerging Home Meal Replacement phenomenon, as well as to traditional service departments.
Let us know what you think of these new sections, and whether they work for you. Information on how to contact SN is printed below.