Ocucon were tasked with designing and then deploying a real-time automated occupancy management system for Aldi UK & Ireland. The resulting solution was Occupi. Occupi is an intelligent occupancy management system that allows retailers to remotely monitor and manage the flow of shoppers in and out of their stores through coordination of signage, lights, CCTV, and automatic door systems.
The supermarket was facing numerous challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One such challenge was how to facilitate social distancing in line with government guidelines. For instance, the first hour of store opening was particularly challenging with increased shopper footfall all condensed into one hour. Another key challenge for Aldi was the increased labour costs due to the need to employ individuals to act as “door marshals,” counting the number of customers in and out of the store to ensure a safe level of occupancy inside the store.
Aldi was aiming to improve operational efficiencies and achieve labour deployment efficiency and savings. They also wanted a solution that was able to be rapidly deployed, reduce the number of staff required to control occupancy levels in store, with the added benefit of reassuring customers.
A 30 day trial of Occupi was deployed in mid-April at Aldi’s Goldthorpe store in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. After the trial was completed, Aldi reported that it was highly successful, and was instrumental in addressing and solving their numerous challenges.
The flow of customers was controlled in an orderly fashion, without the need for staff to maintain access to the store, thus removing human error from occupancy levels and reducing ongoing costs associated with manned security, or door marshals.
Occupi therefore eliminated the costs relating to door marshals that were required to work shift patterns to staff store entry and exit points. Aldi expects that through the use of Occupi, door marshals are no longer needed after 30 days. They also saw an increase in productivity of 15.6% and has enjoyed increased sales of 10-15%. As a result, they decided to roll out the Occupi system across all of their UK and Ireland sites with immediate effect.
To address busy opening hours, we developed an algorithm for Occupi which adapts to consider the uniqueness of each retail space as it allows batch or group access, and time spaced door entry in order to effectively manage social distancing requirements in-store. For example, when a shop opens in the morning, it can prevent everyone rushing in at once, as this would cause crowding in the first aisle. The system allows for setup wherein it only lets a group of 5 people in at a time before locking for 1 minute to ensure a good and safe flow of people. This only disables the sensor on the outside of the entrance door and all other door operations are retained, for example fire escapes, manual opening and so on.
The success of this project has not gone unnoticed. It’s received widespread positive coverage in the media, and was also featured on BBC Click, the BBC’s flagship technology programme.
The BBC piece was filmed at Aldi’s Goldthorpe store in Rotherham in September 2020. The piece focused on Occupi, and how the technology has successfully automated the control over store occupancy levels and simplified the store entry process for both customers and staff. Ocucon are fortunate to have a client in Aldi who asked for help and lucky enough to have the technological expertise and partners to help deliver what is a truly ground-breaking solution.
Ocucon continues to work closely with Aldi and other customers to ensure that the Occupi system is responsive to customer needs and can adapt to the changing world in which we are all operating through incorporating new features. To see Ocucon’s feature on BBC Click, view it on our YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/et30BPyS_Ms