CASE STUDIES

The Case of the Smart Shelf | Infiniti Research

Nov 25, 2022

Business overview for smart shelf

Our client provides chemicals and materials management services to businesses in the biopharma, semiconductor, electronics, manufacturing technology, and aviation sectors. Headquartered in Germany, the company services 150,000+ customers, including in the public sector, in nearly 50 countries. Annual revenue from across the Americas, Europe, and AMEA markets exceeded $4 billion in 2021. With its promising pipeline of innovative products and services, the company hopes to tap an addressable market of over $45 billion in the short-to-medium term. One such pioneering offering is an intelligent shelf for pharmaceutical research labs capable of sensing changes in the weight of inventory placed on it and reporting the data in real time to an inventory management application.

Client’s business situation in the smart shelf industry

When a piece of inventory is picked from the previously mentioned intelligent shelf, RFID weight monitoring tags embedded into the smart shelf detect the weight change at a piece level. Furthermore, the data is transmitted to an RFID reader and inventory management system. Thus, the “smart shelf” enables inventory depletion to be tracked, as it happens, with little or no human intervention.

Misplaced items could easily dent any lab’s profits, but the smart shelf comes into action here. The electronically connected shelf curbs this problem before it can start to drain the bottom line by raising real-time alerts in case of misplaced items. The smart shelf is designed to make restocking decisions based on pre-set policies autonomously. Furthermore, these smart shelves can capture enormous amounts of data, and AI and deep learning algorithms can be run on these data sets to “pull” powerful insights on consumption patterns to improve demand analysis.

Stockouts are just bad for any organization and more so for pharma labs. A stockout situation could stall or delay critical projects (e.g., drug development) and cost the lab by way of missed opportunities. Carrying too much stock is the other extreme and contributes to cost overruns. Smart shelves mitigate these and other risks by automating inventory management processes. This ensures labs have an accurate account of how much inventory they have at any given time.

Therefore, the smart shelf is conceptually a heartwarming proposition for labs. That said, before taking the solution to market, the client needed to understand the target audience’s inclination to buy it. With this in mind, the client engaged our market intelligence team to conduct a “voice of customer” survey.

Primarily, the client was looking for the following outcomes from our survey:  

  • Assessment of the customer’s willingness to pay/adopt smart shelves
  • Exploration of the barriers to smart shelf adoption
  • Assistance in establishing the best price and framing go-to-market strategies in key regions

Our market intelligence solution

Finding and reaching the right set of respondents is the cornerstone of any survey, and this has an important bearing on the validity of the research method. To minimize sampling errors and ensure the accuracy of results, the population of potential customers were split into smaller groups by markets (US, Europe), type of organization (e.g., pharma), and title (e.g., lab manager). The sample had the same proportions as the target market. Appropriate survey distribution methods were employed to reach the curated respondent pool, pose relevant questions, and accurately capture audience perceptions about the client’s solution.

The study reveals that most respondents spend significant person-hours to avoid the risk of stockouts and ensure their businesses function with as little disruption as possible during such emergencies. So, these respondents were open to automating their inventory operations. Incumbent inventory management systems do not seem up to the task regarding updates on damaged and expired products. Many of these issues surface only during manual checks, and such inspections are proving increasingly difficult. The respondents named up to 17 features they would have liked to see in an ideal smart shelf solution. Furthermore, the study uncovered three key factors influencing the adoption and purchase of smart shelf solutions. The proposed single automated system, respondents felt, would make the inventory management process simpler and more predictable.

Besides four other ways, the survey also identified the most popular method for maintaining inventory. AI, automation, robotics, and barcodeare key technologies customers are currently using or actively considering deploying to automate inventory operations. The study also pinpointed the departments responsible for managing the inventory process at many labs.

A sizable segment of respondents preferred to purchase a smart shelf solution outright. At the same time, a smaller proportion seemed more inclined to lease the solution, largely due to CAPEX considerations. Some of the respondents gave early indications of how much they are ready to put on the table in exchange for increased visibility of inventory levels and the capability to track lab commodities.  

Among other things, the survey identified up to 11 decision-makers, besides the CEO, who are responsible for the entry, assessment, and approval of new inventory management solutions at target organizations. Although every organization has its tried-and-tested approach to assess the performance of any new inventory solution, our market intelligence team further aggregated the standard steps involved in the product evaluation process.

Client benefits

The client uses our survey as a baseline to better understand target groups and fine-tune the product to ensure a closer fit with customer aspirations.

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