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* Shelfrite

Introduction

Shelfrite electronic shelf edge labelling system is a computer controlled system for placing the prices of goods on the shelves in major supermarket stores, much more cost effectively than can be provided using rival systems such as LCD displays.

Current Technologies

At present retailers use product identification information that is printed on the item being purchased and lookup the current price from their database in the Point of Sale system. Product identification systems can be the barcode system, an RFID system or even a numeric product number attached to the goods. Because of using a computer database, it is very easy for the store-owner to change the price when needed. However currently the problem arises in that the customer needs to be informed what price will be charged. Due to the lack of availability of cost effective electronic display systems, at present the retailer has to print a label called a "shelf-talker" and to physically place it below the product range being displayed. This causes many problems as the retailer has to identify the location of the product range and instal the label. Often the labels get lost, are not updated by the retailer's staff, or are placed in the wrong location. This leads to a problem in that the customer is charged a different price to what they were expecting to pay, causing various legal problems in various communities.

Single database for Point of Sale and Shelf Edge Labelling

Shelfrite was developed to solve this problem effectively. Using the same database that is used for the point of sale system, and using another database that shows the location of the different product lines on the shelves, Shelfrite labels the product ranges with the correct prices.

In a Shelfrite store, a one inch wide rail with a plastic insert is attached to the front of all the shelves. A mobile printer is placed on the end of the rail and travels along the rail printing the image with prices, adverts and publicity slogans. The printing ink sticks to the plastic rail and does not wipe off with rubbing or water spilling, but comes off with a light cleaning fluid when the prices need to be changed.

The printers use well known ink jet technology to deliver graphics and price information to the print surface. Advertising slogans can be inserted between the price labels. The print rails should be quite long in a stretch and the printer should be able to travel at 0.5 meters per second along the rails.

Operation

Price changes should be made when the store is empty of customers. The software reads the new price lists for the point of sale terminals and identifies which prices have changed. By cross referencing a the layout database, the gondola shelves which have goods which have changed prices are listed. The operator takes a printer from the managers office to the first gondola shelf on the list of changes, wipes off the image down the entire length of the rail, places the printer on the end and the printer travels along the rail printing the new image. The operator then moves the printer to the next shelf on the list of changes. As the entire rail is reinked, it is not even necessary for the operator to know which specific products on the shelves have changed price. At the end of the changes, the printer is returned to the office. On an average day, prices should be updated using this method in 10 minutes after closing. Three printers can cater for a major superstore with 40 000 products.

Using this method, even if every item has to have its price changed in the store (say with a tax change), this could be accomplished in about 3 hours.

Patents

This concept is patented in most of the major trading countries in the world. In the USA, the system was found to be so novel, that the patent was granted without an official objection from the examiner. The patents are jointly owned by a South African Government organisation and a consortium in which RFID have certain commercial rights. The intention of all owning parties is to licence manufacturers to impliment this system.

Advantages and market needs

  • Solution needed in 450 000 ( Dec 1994 numbers) stores around the world and growing at about 20% per annum..
  • Low and well-known technology and simple to manufacture
  • No large scale expensive communications needed throughout the store
  • Able to print graphics, icons, logos, and text in black & white or colour
  • Easy to be used and maintained by store owner/operator
  • Shelf edge labels and Point of Sale use same price database
  • Single personal computer can run entire system
  • Can be priced at 10% of the competitive LCD display technologies.
  • Concept demonstration model developed to show features
  • Uses well-known ink jet technology
  • No large scale factories needed to manufacture system despite market size
  • State of development

    A concept demonstration model has been built to prove the concepts and secure the patents. Photographs of this model are linked to this page below. Major retaillers who have seen the demonstration have been very impressed with the simplicity, effectiveness, and potential cost benefits of the system. What now remains is for manufacturers to industrialise the and create a supply of systems for use by the retail markets.

    WANTED We are interested in licensing partners to manufacture this exciting product and impliment this technology throughout the world. Touch here for information

    Photographs of demonstration version and graphics showing concept

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