RELEX takes stake in Zenopt to offer workforce optimisation to retailers

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Relex Solutions, provider of integrated retail and supply chain planning solutions, invested in Zenopt's advanced workforce optimisation system to help retailers plan their staffing needs better allowing them to reduce costs while improving customer service, a vital differentiator in today's retail landscape.

Research finds that labour is one of the most significant overhead costs in retail averaging 10-20% of turnover. Given the critical importance of managing labour costs efficiently, Zenopt is a perfect partner for Relex's continued focus on helping retailers reduce costs while increase sales and service levels.

Current workforce planning systems are based on sales and customer flows. Retailers generally have to plan weeks or months in advance and it can be difficult to make last minute changes. In many cases, they also base planning on budgets rather than actual sales forecasts.

Together with Zenopt, Relex is adding a new dimension to retail workforce planning with forecasts calculated from the product/store level up resulting in exceptionally accurate forecasts not only for sales, but also for inventory flows into DCs and stores. Shelf-stacking is often a largely ignored part of workforce planning, yet it is a major factor in stores overall workload, one that is significantly affected by delivery schedules, promotions, new product launches etc. The availability of medium-term shelf-stacking forecasts fundamentally changes retailers' ability to plan accurately.

Zenopt's technology adds additional key capabilities. It optimises workload by timing different tasks efficiently around customer flows and other fixed workloads. It also takes into account staff skills (and even contractural restrictions) when matching people to tasks, such as running a fish, deli or pharmacy counter.

Most currently available workforce planning systems struggle to produce optimised plans as they fail to take into account the nature of the work that needs to be done. Zenopt's smart optimisation makes it easy to plan shifts around staffing requirements, staff members' competiencies and their availability.

This combination of exceptionally accurate forecasting and detailed staff-resource analysis means the two companies are taking workforce optimisation to unprecedented levels of effectiveness.

That means real savings through reducing, and even eliminating overstaffing, and fewer instances of understaffing or in-proper staffing that result in delays getting products on-shelf, increased spoilage, long queues at the cashier and loss of sales. "This is about more than cutting waste," says Relex's co-founder and CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen. "It's about efficient management of stores. We expect ever better service when we go shopping and we hope this will be yet another way in which Relex helps retailers re-focus their efforts on their customers."

Zenopt, a startup founded by Mika Halme and Antti Alakiikonen in 2016, is based in Helsinki, Finland and has taken an innovative approach to workforce management and planning by modelling the employee pool for calculating availability to match staffing requirements. The software was founded on several years of experience in workforce management as well as latest programming and optimization techniques, which contribute to a user-friendly and efficient approach to workforce planning.

"Our partnership with Relex will give us access to outstanding forecast data which in turn will allow scores of companies to manage their people's time better," says Zenopt's CEO, Mika Halme. "Employees will find their workload is more evenly distributed, so fewer instances of working flat out or barely at all. Employers will save money and customers will find there are people free to help them. Everybody wins."

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