M&S (Cybake ISB)
Freshness and availability are clear points of differentiation for grocery retailers that operate in-store bakeries.
However, both present an age-old challenge: bake too much or at the wrong times and you miss out on sales or end up throwing food away. Bake little and often, at the right times, and availability improves. Customers are happier, sales improve, and waste is reduced.
M&S started looking at ways to improve freshness and availability within its in-store bakeries in 2015.
According to Leo Fields, M&S’ Strategic Planner for Cybake at the time, reducing waste and increasing sales were important factors behind this strategy.
Fields says: “The biggest driver, though, was the need to bake the right product at the right time for our customers. We wanted to get more consistency across not only our store estate but also across the day, so ensuring that our morning customer and our afternoon customer got the same experience when they came into the store.”
M&S contacted us after reading about our work with sales-based ordering for retail bakeries in the trade press. We agreed to create a cloud-based system based on similar principles that would improve the demand forecasting of M&S in-store bakeries’ production waves throughout the day.
In October 2015, the new system was trialed as a proof-of- concept in two M&S in-store bakeries in York, two in Leeds and one in Clapham, London.
At the time, Lance Bennett, senior IT project manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “For this trial, we wanted to work with a specialist bakery sector provider. The proposal by the Cybake team fitted the bill perfectly. I have been impressed with their agility when it comes to development and their rapid responsiveness to our suggestions.”
Particular emphasis was placed on making the job of production planning easier for M&S’ bakery teams, not harder. Buy-in from bakery colleagues was vital. Introducing an overly complex system would not work. Even if it was theoretically fit for purpose, it would lose their confidence during the inevitable fine-tuning which would be required.
Cybake ISB therefore presented M&S bakery colleagues with an easy-to-use interface and smooth workflows that both monitored and ensured compliance. After a very small amount of time, even less tech-savvy bakers were fully up to speed and using the solution without issues.
Leo Fields says: “Cybake ISB is definitely viewed positively by staff, and they see it as a great tool that they can really use to drive their sales within their bakery and give the customers what they want.”
Initial test-site trials of Cybake ISB were successful. Resource requirements from M&S’ busy IT division were kept to a minimum.
M&S then expanded the trial to 28 stores with positive results. In June 2016, M&S announced that Cybake ISB would be rolled out to all of its UK stores. This rollout was then extended to all M&S stores in the Republic of Ireland.
M&S reports that that availability has improved, sales have gone up and waste has gone down. Cybake ISB has also helped smaller stores to be more targeted about what they sell.
Another result is that Cybake ISB has helped M&S bakers be better aware of the specific range for their store. More recently, M&S has started rolling out a refreshed version of Cybake ISB with a refined interface, extra reports and improved offline data capture.
Commenting on the Cybake ISB project as whole, Fields says: “Customers are at the heart of everything we do at M&S. Importantly, this has helped improve availability for our customers allowing us to offer their favorite bakery products, whenever they shop with us.”
“We wanted to get more consistency across not only our store estate but also across the day, so ensuring that our morning customer and our afternoon customer got the same experience when they came into the store.”