Sainsbury’s ditches legacy systems for AI cloud drive

Sainsbury_Group2Sainsbury’s is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a launch pad for change, by retiring some legacy systems and boosting its take up of artificial intelligence and machine learning as it pushes more of its tech into the cloud.

The Sainsbury’s group, which also includes Nectar, Argos, Habitat and clothing brand Tu, has always stated its long-term aim to become a purely data-driven business, backed by Nectar data.

The retailer already gathers data from multiple sources; it has over 18.5 million members of the Nectar scheme and claims to have 33 million customer records at its disposal. It also has a partnership with both Accenture and Google to implement machine learning technology to identify what customers want and the trends driving their eating habits.

Sainsbury’s group chief information officer Phil Jordan told Computing: “We’re using pandemic as a launch pad for change. We fared well during the pandemic as we had our digital capabilities ready. We’re now flipping Argos to be fully digital and changing our distribution network.

“From a technology perspective we have some real heavy lifting to do. We’re looking at our supply chain logistics and it’s a big year of delivery for modernising the supply chain core.”

One major push will to be implement technology from Blue Yonder – the company which already works with Asda – to offer AI-powered forecasting and big data analytics.

Jordan added: “We’re retiring some 30 year old legacy capabilities and implementing Blue Yonder in the cloud. What’s great about it is all the inherent promise of better AI and machine learning capabilities, and all the benefits of real-time processing and better forecasting. Sainsbury’s has run with the previous system for 30 years and we start the migration this year. It’s a huge undertaking.”

The group is also starting to integrate the Argos and Sainsbury’s logistics networks.

Jordan explained: “We’ve been putting stores in stores for some time, you’ll often find an Argos store inside Sainsbury’s. Up till now we haven’t integrated the logistics networks. That means there’d be both Sainsbury’s and Argos lorries pulling up at stores, but now we’re integrating that. There’s a lot of heavy lifting in non-customer facing areas.

“It’s about the logistics of bringing businesses together, having a warehouse and logistics network that can send anything anywhere rather than being tied to brands,” he concluded.

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