LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A division here of Kroger Co., Cincinnati, will expand customer self-scanning technology to two more stores this fall.
The new stores will be equipped with an upgraded version of the self-service checkout system, which enables shoppers to scan, bag and pay for their groceries with little or no cashier intervention. A test store featuring four self-checkout lanes in Middletown, Ky., will be retrofitted next month, according to Don Emrah, manager of store operation services.
Design changes will be implemented to speed the self-service checkout process and could allow up to 120 customers per hour to move through each automated lane, roughly twice the traffic of one Kroger conventional express lane, Emrah told SN.
The four self-checkout stations were installed in Kroger's Middletown, Ky., store in June. This fall, two more stores, one here and another in Jeffersontown, Ky., will be equipped with the upgraded system, which costs $175,000 to $200,000 for a cluster of four self-service lanes.
Emrah said the system is well-accepted by shoppers but some design changes were necessary to streamline the process.
"We cannot do anything to increase how fast the customer wants to check himself out and bag," he said. "The only thing we can do is improve the system to where we have the least amount of cashier intervention, which in turn frees up the checkout station much quicker."
Kroger's new self-service checkout stations, which are from Optimal Robotics, Plattsburgh, N.Y., will feature the following design changes:
Integrated change dispensers for each lane. Each checkout station will feature its own integrated system for accepting payment and dispensing change. The current design has two lanes sharing a freestanding device, which requires a cashier's authorization to complete each transaction.
Reconfigured checkout lanes. The physical layout of the stations will be modified to facilitate better traffic flow from the self-service stations to the store exit.
Repositioned cameras. Video cameras, used to monitor the process and identify produce, will be situated 2 to 3 feet above the scanner scale, rather than the current 8-foot distance. Emrah said product identification will be improved. Mounting cameras on the units, rather than suspending them from the ceiling, will allow cabling to be installed underground.
Emrah said the software and hardware redesigns will speed customer self-checkout, especially for shoppers paying by cash.
"Unless they bought produce that has to be weighed, or cigarettes or alcoholic beverages -- which require the operator to make sure the ID and age is correct -- the [cash] customers could come straight through, check themselves out, get their change and be gone," Emrah said.
Kroger, the second supermarket to install the self-checkout system from Optimal Robotics, is exchanging test results with Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., which installed the first system. Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif., is expected to begin testing one four-lane system in a store next month.