TESCO TESTS NEW IN-STORE PICKING FOR HOME SHOPPING

CHESHUNT, England -- In an effort to increase its home-shopping operation's efficiency, Tesco here is testing new in-store picking technology that uses a cart-mounted computer.Tesco, which operates 600 stores in the United Kingdom, offers home shopping through 12 supermarkets. The retailer is testing new picking technology at the store level to help reduce mispicks, ensure order accuracy and increase

CHESHUNT, England -- In an effort to increase its home-shopping operation's efficiency, Tesco here is testing new in-store picking technology that uses a cart-mounted computer.

Tesco, which operates 600 stores in the United Kingdom, offers home shopping through 12 supermarkets. The retailer is testing new picking technology at the store level to help reduce mispicks, ensure order accuracy and increase pick speed. Tesco has offered on-line home shopping since 1995.

The new technology, a portable computer that interfaces with another computer in the store that contains the home-shopping order, mounts on the "trolley," known as a shopping cart in the United States, said Russell Craig, press officer for Tesco.

When an order is received, it is downloaded into the portable computer. A Tesco employee puts the computer in the cart and follows an electronic item pick list. Since the items are picked from the retailer's shelves, the computer is able to provide an optimized picking sequence. When the shopper picks an item, he scans its bar code into the portable unit and places it in the cart.

Craig said the new technology is far superior to the early paper pick lists that "dogged" the retailer with problems.

"It [a paper pick list] is not a viable way to business," Craig said. Currently, the other 11 Tesco stores offering home shopping are still using the paper lists. The retailer said it does not have a projected rollout date for the new technology, or exact statistics on how the technology has improved in-store picking efficiency.

The picking software and the computers were developed by two London-based technology companies, Unipower and ICL.

Two other projects recently launched by the retailer are a handheld personal organizer device that customers can use for home shopping. The devices can help shoppers develop their own electronic shopping lists and scan their own items, according to the retailer.

Tesco's second project, which is still in its very early stages, according to Craig, involves a pen-like scanning device from Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y., that will allow consumers to scan product bar codes at home as they are placing their home-shopping orders.