Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Kosla oversees all facets of IT and helps digital options and omnichannel technique for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. companies. / Picture: Shutterstock

Rom Kosla joined Ahold Delhaize USA (ADUSA) as govt VP of data know-how and chief data officer for the corporate’s Retail Enterprise Providers (RBS) arm in April 2021. He oversees all facets of IT and helps digital options and omnichannel technique for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. companies, which embody Cease & Store, Big Meals, Big/Martin’s, Meals Lion and Hannaford, in addition to on-line grocer FreshDirect and the Peapod Digital Labs e-commerce unit. Kosla got here to ADUSA after greater than 14 years at PepsiCo. His 25 years of know-how expertise additionally contains greater than two years at Deloitte Consulting and over 9 years at Nestlé.

Winsight Grocery Enterprise Government Editor Russell Redman acquired an opportunity to take a seat down and discuss with Kosla this week on the Nationwide Retail Federation’s 2023 “Huge Present” conference in Manhattan. Listed here are edited excerpts of the dialogue.

WGB: What have been a number of the main know-how investments that Ahold Delhaize USA made in 2022? What have they introduced or will carry to the corporate?

ROM KOSLA: An enormous a part of final 12 months was our self-distribution capabilities. In 2022, the largest issues that we have been making an attempt to drive is transferring loads of distribution from third events into our personal distribution. We applied a provide chain answer. In some instances, we built-in a number of the older supply-chain cases into our again finish. So know-how was a giant a part of integrating our provide chain. On the identical time, I’d say that has actually propelled our progress. You could possibly see that, not simply inside ADUSA however throughout the trade, provide chain was a problem. However I do consider that having extra management of that and the combination throughout the techniques actually gave us a leg up. We did rather well final 12 months. I don’t have all the main points we are able to share at this level from This autumn, however we grew considerably as a enterprise. A big a part of that was our capability to handle our future.

On the e-commerce aspect, we grew as effectively. As an organization, we constructed our e-commerce platform, known as Prism, in-house. One of many issues that we have been seeing throughout the pandemic was an enormous progress in that house, however we constructed the know-how actually on-premises inside our information facilities. The dimensions and scale is simply not doable in a conventional information middle. So we migrated a good portion into the cloud. The elastic aspect of it—the place we see the [demand] seasonality like back-to-school or throughout the holidays—is a giant piece of know-how belongings that you just actually can’t simply deploy, , order after which put into the house. So the idea of elastic compute after which burstable compute is a vital a part of our technique. And that hybrid cloud will at all times be about hybrid cloud. We’re by no means going to simply transfer all the things into the cloud. We expect we have to keep a few of our belongings inside our management. So these have been two huge methods we had final 12 months.

WGB: The place is ADUSA at the moment at on the know-how aspect in transitioning its community to self-distribution? Is that fully executed but. I feel it was at 65% or 85%. What sorts of know-how implementations has this concerned?

KOSLA: I don’t have the total proportion. We now have new amenities which are additionally being added. The scope is we’ve got some brownfield and a few greenfield. We now have chilly amenities which are getting added. Really, this month we’re going dwell, after which we’ve got one other one developing within the second half of the 12 months. So loads of this stuff aren’t simply one thing we’re bringing in, but in addition implementing know-how round automation. A superb portion of those amenities are robotics. It’s extremely automated. These amenities are super-cold—attempt to get the variety of individuals [needed] to work in these chilly amenities, that are minus-30 in some instances. So we’re constructing the robotics to assist drive that functionality. And, we’re partnering with our ecosystem to verify they’re simply not for these cases but in addition probably future ambient options as effectively. We’re fairly near ending our self-distribution program. By the second half of the 12 months, we needs to be a 100% executed.

WGB: What tech investments are within the pipeline for ADUSA in 2023?

KOSLA: One of many issues we’re spending loads of time excited about is how we’re going to do extra scaled. We now have techniques which are pretty legacy. It’s widespread with loads of firms. And with legacy, we’re speaking about a long time outdated. For us, we’re going to proceed driving capabilities and productiveness within the current techniques, but in addition the idea of latest platforms and platforms that may scale throughout all of our manufacturers. A part of our funding is the start of the roadmap. We simply applied our finance answer on SAP. So all of our manufacturers now leverage the identical finance answer. We’re excited about the subsequent step to combine finance plus our provide chain, our business system, collectively.

On the identical time, we’re additionally changing and fascinating our built-in point-of-sale system. We now have a number of point-of-sales [systems], and what we’re doing now’s creating a single point-of-sale answer throughout all our manufacturers. The objective right here is, as soon as we’ve got that—plus our again finish, our in-house e-commerce answer—combine them and actually unlock the related buyer. A number of it’s in flight, and it’s going to take time. However as soon as we’ve got that each one collectively, we could have a totally vertically built-in answer. That’s one of the fascinating components of this firm proper now. The enterprise is actually taking a look at, how can we create that actually connected-customer omnichannel functionality? And so our investments are actually tied to that worth proposition.

“The automated success facilities have been implausible. We’re studying loads about that have,” Kosla mentioned, citing The Big Firm’s Big Direct facility on Island Avenue in Philadelphia. / Picture courtesy of The Big Firm

WGB: On the shopper aspect, what sorts of applied sciences has ADUSA adopted to reinforce the shopper expertise and make success extra cost-efficient?

KOSLA: Final 12 months, we deployed a success answer that’s on a TC52 [Zebra handheld device]. We’ve migrated loads of our success capabilities, all cellular, all in-house-built. Then our engineering crew, our Peapod Digital Lab group, is constructing these capabilities instantly. So we’re not essentially counting on third-party software program suppliers. We’re constructing an in-house answer. The {hardware} is what we purchase. The excellent news is, we deployed it final 12 months, after which we’ll proceed to deploy out to 2 different manufacturers. The rollout goes to be half this 12 months for Meals Lion and subsequent 12 months might be for Hannaford. All of the know-how, we’ve absolutely examined that in our three different manufacturers. So we’ll see success capabilities proceed to broaden.

On the digital entrance, the e-commerce answer can be getting expanded. There’s a backlog of capabilities that the groups are engaged on and, actually, the manufacturers have a excessive want for a few of these capabilities that tie on to our buyer engagement. For me, coming from CPG, after I truly understood a bit of bit about how our e-commerce answer instantly ties to the shopper, it’s fascinating. Chat is a giant a part of that, chatting with our prospects after they ask to purchase a sure sort of apples or bananas, and we all know them from our [purchase] historical past. The chat is, for instance, ’Hey, Ms. Johnson, we seen that you just order bananas. These aren’t as ripe as what you often purchase. Would you need to wait, or do you need to purchase them?’ That engagement is extraordinarily private. And that personalization is actually a part of what I feel is fascinating in regards to the know-how we’re deploying. It’s actually what our manufacturers are on the lookout for. Enabling that [level of] engagement with the purchasers is rather more intimate than what I’ve seen in my earlier expertise.

WGB: You led me proper into my subsequent query. How is ADUSA leveraging its troves of information to create a extra personalised expertise for purchasers and assist CPG companions market their manufacturers?

KOSLA: What’s fascinating is we’ve got a standard loyalty answer, and we even have a Huge Knowledge platform within the cloud. All the things we’re doing to handle and collect transaction information is flowing via to actually understanding our prospects, after which leveraging that information for each on-line and in-store. So the manufacturers see what’s occurring on the in-store stage, and the e-commerce enterprise is seeing it from on the on-line stage. However it’s the identical information, and we are able to correlate the info between a web-based buyer and an in-store buyer. That is without doubt one of the highly effective capabilities that we’ve got—we name it Fiona—however it’s all of our Huge Knowledge residing in Azure Cloud.

It has been a big unlock as a result of, first, the info is very large. We’re speaking about, I feel, the time period is petabytes of information, however the quantity of transactions like exabytes. Exabytes of the quantity of community site visitors that that’s being captured, after which truly the nuggets of information that we have to retailer and report on. And the insights that come out of which are unbelievable. To me, this can be a subtle a part of our enterprise that’s world-class as a result of it’s the character of how we have interaction our buyer. We now have our personal inside information. We don’t simply leverage third-party information and assume what on-line customers are doing. We even have it at our fingertips. Different retailers are combating that as a result of they haven’t actually constructed that themselves. I feel that’s an essential funding for the longer term.

“The enterprise is actually taking a look at, how can we create that actually connected-customer omnichannel functionality?” Kosla mentioned. / Picture courtesy of Big Meals

WGB: Some applied sciences that ADUSA has piloted lately embody micro-fulfillment facilities, frictionless checkout and aisle-scanning robots. Any standing replace with these?

KOSLA: We’re taking a pause on some issues. We undoubtedly are implementing digital camera analytics as a result of, in some shops, we’ve got self-checkout as a giant a part of that. So these are being deployed. After which, within the Marty [scanning robot] answer, we’re implementing model 2.0. These are capabilities round shelf-scanning, planogram compliance—all of the issues that may present further insights.

After which, from the opposite items [you mentioned], I’d say frictionless [checkout] might be one the place I feel there’s loads of know-how on the market—, Amazon has applied one thing, proper? The variety of merchandise and objects we’ve got is considerably bigger than a traditional small-store format. So making an attempt to get that into a bigger format might be one thing we nonetheless must work via. I’d describe this as an awesome capability to grasp and classes realized. However we haven’t essentially thought via, for instance, what’s the deployment long run? And the final a part of your query, micro-fulfillment facilities, these have been deployed.

WGB: With Takeoff Applied sciences [as the automation partner].

KOSLA: One is at Island Avenue [in Philadelphia] for The Big Firm. That’s been vital. I’d say these are spectacular, the know-how and functionality. It’s actually driving loads of progress. On the identical time, it makes loads of sense geographically—city facilities, proper? That isn’t going to be our single play. We’re nonetheless going have the place our stock sits with the shops, in some instances. Different instances we’re going to have darkish shops. So we do have these alternatives. However the automated success facilities have been implausible. We’re studying loads about that have.

WGB: It principally relies on [population] density, proper?

KOSLA: Precisely. Right.

WGB: Have any applied sciences or developments jumped out at you thus far on the NRF present?

KOSLA: That is my first NRF present. I’d say that it’s overwhelming [laughs]. It’s like a Vegas lights kind of factor. My eyes have been simply making an attempt to course of all the things that was there. I did get to see  digital shelf labels, which have been fairly spectacular. So I spent a while there working via that. I’m going do extra strolling round. Everybody tells me go to the primary ground, as a result of these are the up-and-coming applied sciences. These would be the future and might be on the primary ground within the subsequent few years. Additionally they mentioned take a look at innovation. So I’m actually open, and a part of it’s simply actually understanding what’s at play within the retail house. I’ll have my groups come again with a report card and say, , ‘Right here’s what we predict we must always go after.’ Proper now, I’m an observer. Possibly subsequent 12 months I’ll have much more insights about what the tech developments are.

WGB: What applied sciences do you assume grocery retailers are taking a look at?

KOSLA: We’re all sort of in the identical house. All of us have loads of legacy know-how the place we need to advance loads of the capabilities to drive progress, whereas we’re actually remediating a few of these techniques that should be modernized. The problem is there are loads of applied sciences that in the event you sort of overlay the capabilities, generally they won’t at all times match the wants of the enterprise. And each enterprise is exclusive.

Retail companies proper now are taking a look at progress in on-line. That’s one thing we talked about in conversations I’ve had with different CIOs. There’s additionally loads of dialogue round, , easy methods to handle it? An enormous a part of that dialog is actually supply-chain effectivity forecasting and replenishment. How can we make it possible for AI [artificial intelligence] and machine studying are included into our planning schedule?

A number of that information crunching and and getting insights out of that information is one thing that each retailer is making an attempt to make sense of. As a result of in making an attempt to forecast for the longer term, you would possibly have the ability to do a greater job in three months, however making an attempt to forecast a 12 months from now so you possibly can construct up your stock and do all these issues goes to be a problem. We’re going to have to determine which information factors are related for which future forecast. That’s a giant piece of the puzzle, I feel, retailers will strive to determine, easy methods to precisely forecast the longer term.

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