Technology is supporting the business and driving changes at Wal-Mart owned supermarket ASDA. IT operations are closely aligned with the US parent company, which handles significant global strategies, as well as corporate IT.

During the last year the organisation has been working on a number of specific IT-based projects to support the rest of the business. It has supplied new PDAs to the whole estate, and extended its home shopping to another 30 stores. It uses the store-pick model, rather than operating out of warehouses.

It has also ramped up its non-food offerings on the internet and this is a significant part of its future direction, according to IT director Howard Reed, who took over the role six months ago. “In these new markets, fulfilment is the big challenge for IT. It is being able to exploit Wal-Mart’s expertise in these areas.”

The company completed its chip and pin installation last year, and has also installed the systems at its unmanned petrol stations. “Now most transactions are chip and pin based,” according to Reed. There has also been a big focus on driving ‘pick’ accuracy in ASDA’s depots, where the organisation is using RF and voice technology to improve accuracy.

"In these new markets, fulfilment is the big challenge for IT"

Howard Reed, IT director, ASDA

Last year the company was very focused on managing its store space and this has continued, says Reed. “We are looking at availability of products, and giving the right products the maximum space to meet demand. Maximising shelf capacity is very important to the business.”

The supermarket is also looking at using technology to improve the customer experience in stores, using self-checkouts and a personal shopping device. “We are looking at the ‘customer time to checkout’ and trying to minimise queues with different checkout initiatives.”

In terms of the IT infrastructure, the company regularly carries out asset renewals at its 300 odd stores in conjunction with its parent, and last year extended its systems to 13 new stores in Northern Ireland. “This is a big undertaking,” says Reed. “The stores were bought from Morrison and are all old Safeway stores. The implementation and transformation of these stores is going extremely well, with customer price and value perceptions at a good level.”