There is little room for error when it comes to supermarket maintenance. Because of the competitive nature of the industry and the thin potential for profit, supermarket operators need to watch all costs carefully and ensure that they are not spending a dime more than they require.
It is impossible to do this through anecdotal knowledge and gut instinct alone. Rather, maintenance should be a data-driven industry, and managers need to have comprehensive and accurate information about all of their resources and expenses. We live in an era of data analytics, and every sector can benefit from business intelligence – including maintenance.
Big data leads to big results
Supermarkets around the world have already found varying degrees of success with embracing "big data" and using it to improve their operational efficiency. Computer Weekly recently reported on one such example from the United Kingdom, where supermarket chain Tesco has been able to develop strong all-encompassing metrics for gauging its progress with efficient use of energy.
Niall Brady, research engineer for intelligent buildings and energy analytics at IBM, played a key role in this effort.
"We developed a set of key performance indicators [KPIs] that looked at data aggregated every month over a year," Brady told the news source. "Without knowing anything about how the refrigerators should perform, we could identify when they were behaving in an anomalous way."
Brady and his collaborators have been successful. John Walsh, Tesco's energy and carbon manager in Ireland, noted that Tesco has been able to cut its refrigeration energy costs by up to 20 percent across 3,000 different store locations, which could lead to a potential savings of 20 million euros.
Tracking the right data points
Supermarket operators everywhere should be doing more to consider the right data and make smarter decisions about energy use. Effective maintenance is all about data – without looking at the numbers, it is impossible for stores to have a clear picture of how they are operating and what inefficiencies can be addressed.
Ideally, supermarkets would be tracking many different data points in concert to include energy spend, refrigerant usage and more. If they can effectively create "scorecards" to measure these key figures, they can model their current and future maintenance budgets and perform value-based performance measurements that they can later build on.