Supermarkets once had to rely on employees to manage all the equipment in the store, keep a running inventory of the thousands of products and tally by hand the purchases that customers made. But with the growth of computers, many of those highly labour intensive tasks have been eliminated.
Supermarkets now use technology to speed up the checkout process of its customers by scanning the universal product codes on purchases. Instead of having the prices attached to each product, each of them has a bar code which, when scanned, charges the customer the price set by the supermarket for each product. Each checkout area has a reader and when a product is passed over a certain area, the information is captured and a tally of all the products purchased by that customer is made. The information is taken by a computer at the checkout area and sent to the computer in the system office where it is stored.
The information about each product purchased by a customer goes to several computers in the system office, where the inventory of products that have been sold are reduced. Supermarkets keep a running inventory so employees know what needs to be restocked or bought. If that supermarket is part of a larger organisation, the information captured is automatically sent to the supermarket's head office so that office will know immediately what to ship to that store. Because that information is so critical, supermarkets have more than one computer that captures that data.
Before computers, a supermarket had to monitor each chiller and freezer in the store and the warehouse each hour to ensure the proper temperature setting. Today, computers monitor them continually and make adjustments in the temperature when needed. In addition, each freezer must be defrosted, so the computer automatically shuts them down long enough to allow the ice within each to melt. Finally, if a freezer breaks down, the computer will automatically signal that, cutting down on spoilage.