Giant Eagle monitors assets to prevent waste and shrink

Giant Eagle is performing IoT monitoring.

A regional food, fuel and pharmacy retailer is tracking a variety of products in its supply chain and stores.

Vic Vercammen, VP of safety, regulatory & government affairs at Giant Eagle Inc., discussed how the retailer has been expanding its effort to trace a variety of products utilizing SmartSense by Digi Internet of Things (IoT)-based monitoring technology at the recent NRF 2024 "Big Show" in New York.

"The most regulated products are in your pharmacy," Vercammen said. "Many regulations that control receipt storage distribution tend to be very costly. You also want to have good traceability of those products at all times. In 2018 we started our journey, monitoring our overall pharmacy compliance with regard to temperature, environmental condition, and product integrity."

Following this initial rollout of SmartSense by Digi digital temperature monitoring devices, Vercammen said Giant Eagle then layered in task management and task monitoring with positive feedback, followed by grocery asset monitoring based on internet network sensors across all of the company’s freezers, refrigerators, display coolers and chilled product storage in its supermarkets.

Latest developments

In early 2024, Giant Eagle began testing IoT-based asset monitoring in its convenience stores, similar to how it conducts this process in its supermarkets. In addition, the retailer has been leveraging its SmartSense by Digi platform to monitor shrink and determine shrink reduction opportunities.

"When you think of shrink, you think of external theft, shoplifting, and organized retail crime," said Vercammen. "You also have internal theft, but we are looking beyond those obvious cases."

According to Vercammen, Giant Eagle is also tracking shrink caused by expiration of overstocked products with a limited shelf life.

"If I'm overstocked on a product, I may have to mark it down," said Vercammen. "Hopefully I can sell it at reduced margin. But a lot of perishable products have an expiration date. If I'm overstocked and I'm not turning merchandise properly, I'm eventually going to have to discard it and that's a significant loss for everyone."

Before turning to temperature sensors, Giant Eagle manually monitored environmental conditions for perishable products, which was a labor-intensive and failure-prone process. 

Other benefits Giant Eagle obtains from monitoring perishable food items include being able to show customers that they were produced using humane and sustainable methods from source to shelf. In addition, the technology helps the retailer meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Customs clearance requirements for food items.

Based on its ability to act on sensor alerts, Vercammen said Giant Eagle was able to keep $72 million of inventory in proper condition during 2023, preventing possible spoilage. In addition, the retailer obtained notifications of failing equipment before it broke down.

Future Plans

Looking ahead, Giant Eagle plans to leverage the large volumes of data it obtains about its food storage, food handling and food transport operations to more effectively reduce overall energy usage.

"We're also leaning into more fresh offerings so we can be more aggressive in what we offer to the to the guest, because we have the confidence that our coolers, refrigeration and display cases are always going to work according to specifications," said Vercammen. "This allows Giant Eagle to be more aggressive with some of the prepared foods we offer and with some of our inventory levels."

As a result, Vercammen said Giant Eagle will be less likely to be out of stock and won’t need to pull back chilled product storage as much due to concerns about cooler temperatures.

Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle Inc. operates 480 stores under the Giant Eagle, Market District, and GetGo banners throughout western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds