Whole Foods’ new inventory management system meets employee resistance

According to recent reports in the US trade media, a new inventory management system at grocery retailer Whole Foods Market has not been warmly received by many store employees. The system is aimed at creating a more centralized approach, to improve efficiency and customer service while reducing food waste. However, there is widespread talk of heightened stress and tension in the workplace, and some employees have been reduced to tears or even lost their jobs, it is claimed.

Following criticism of the old inventory management system for being highly inefficient, Whole Foods introduced a new method which, according to the company itself, has helped to cut costs, reduce shrink, tackle food waste and enable employees to spend more time engaging with customers. However, employees themselves appear to be less impressed with the new order-to-shelf (OTS) system which outlines clear procedures for how products must be purchased, stored in backrooms and displayed on shelves.

The problems seem to stem from the checklist or ‘scorecard’ system that Whole Foods has implemented to ensure compliance with those procedures. Managers are instructed to complete the scorecards during frequent ‘walks’ through the backrooms and aisles, checking that everything is in the right place and deducting points if any shortcomings are found. The fact that departments and individual employees can be found to ‘fail’, and penalized accordingly, is creating heightened tension – especially because it is claimed that many people feel they’ve received insufficient training and don’t fully understand how OTS works.

There are high hopes that these teething troubles will be ironed out quickly, especially since Whole Foods is now owned by Amazon, which is known for its logistics prowess.