Zebra's MP7000 bioptic imager
By David Turturro | November 17, 2022

Retailers: This Technology Can Reduce Your Electricity Usage (and Bills) at Checkout Lanes

It can also help your overall business become more sustainable (financially and environmentally speaking) by “turning off the lights” more often, without leaving customers or cashiers in the dark.

There’s a lot of talk about inflation’s impact on retail. Yet, it seems every conversation is focused on inventory pricing actions: Will retailers absorb the higher sourcing and shipping costs to keep their product pricing stable? Or will they pass these rate hikes onto consumers?

What’s interesting is how little we’re talking about the exorbitant price retailers are paying just to keep their lights (and checkout lanes) on – and the drastic measures being taken to get energy costs under control.

In Europe, retailers are shutting off lights and unplugging what they can. In APAC, some retailers are turning to the government for assistance while others are trying to diversify power sources to keep the lights on and costs down amidst the worst energy crisis in years. And, in the U.S. where energy bills are among the largest in-store operating expenses, grocery and convenience stores are spending a lot of money to swap out the highest power-consuming equipment and appliances with more energy efficient versions.

The challenge is that the former method isn’t sustainable – stores can only reduce operating hours and refrigerated shelf space for so long before revenue losses start exceeding utility bill savings. And the more methodical move to sustainable building infrastructure, though smart, will take time. That means retailers may still find themselves forced to pass rising energy costs onto consumers in the form of higher product prices.

That’s why I want to talk to you about a way to “turn off the lights” and save energy at your checkout lanes without having to fully power down or unplug your multi-plane scanners.

Waking Up to the Benefits of “Sleeping” Technology

Though you never want your workers sleeping on the job, it is in your best interest to ensure the technologies you’re using across store operations will go to sleep every chance they get – especially the multi-plane bioptic imagers that are plugged in (and drawing very expensive power) 24/7 at your checkout lanes.

Think about it:

  • If you have a lane that is only used 40% of the day (i.e., during peak periods) but the multiplane scanner is fully powered up – meaning the scanner is fully awake – 100% of the day, you’re wasting (and paying for) a lot of power.
  • Even when a checkout lane is open and “used” 90% of the day, the scanner itself is really only used a fraction of that time – when a shopper or cashier is actively passing an item in front of the imager.

Therefore, no multi-plane scanner is used 100% of the time in any circumstance – even if your store is open 24/7 and you drive 100% of customer traffic to that lane/scanner. So, why would you want it to be “awake” and using up energy 24/7? I’m assuming you wouldn’t. Yet, many multi-plane scanners installed in retail, grocery and convenience stores around the world today are in fact awake around the clock. Are yours?

If you’re not sure, the easiest way to check is to look at the brand and model. If you have Zebra MP7000 multi-plane bioptic imagers, you’re good. They are equipped with Zebra’s Intelligent Illumination system, which only turns on the imagers’ LED lights when merchandise is in the scan zone. As a result, the MP7000’s power usage can be up to 60% less than competitors’ bioptic imagers and up to 30% less than competitors’ laser-based checkout scanners.

What does that mean for your energy bill?

You could potentially save up to $75 per lane over the life of the MP7000, depending on how long it is deployed.  Now, multiply that by however many lanes you have in your store, and you’ll see how significant the savings could be over the next several years.

I know that, in the scheme of things, putting the LED lights in your checkout lane scanners to sleep between scans may feel akin to penny pinching. But pennies add up to dollars, and “one dollar in energy savings is equivalent to increasing sales by $59” according to ENERGY STAR estimates. So, turning off the scanners’ LED lights for even a few seconds could help you increase profit margins quite a bit in the long run.

Of course, if you are not using Zebra MP7000 bioptic imagers at checkout lanes today, and you opt not to make any changes, then you are going to be paying (rather, wasting/losing) quite a bit of money at each checkout lane every day (or year) until you install a more energy-efficient scanner. And we both know that’s money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Again, I realize you may see this as an incremental expense. But let me ask you this: would you leave your car running all day in the parking lot while you’re in the office working? Of course not. That would be wasteful and expensive. Well, so is leaving your multi-plane scanner awake 24/7 even when checkout lanes are closed or slow. It’s very possible that lane becomes a loss leader if you’re paying to keep all the lights on, but it’s not used to ring up a sale all day long.

The Other Green Benefits That Can Help Keep You in the Black

Understandably, the urgency to reduce in-store power consumption (and energy bills) is probably the biggest motivation for near-term infrastructure/technology changes. But it’s worth noting that some of these changes will bring quite prolonged financial and environmental sustainability benefits. For example, if you were to switch to the Zebra MP7000 multi-plane bioptic imager, you would…

  • reduce your landfill waste resulting from the scanner replacement since the MP7000 ships with biodegradable outer packaging and only comes with an electronic user guide (not a paper one). Plus, we use 40% recycled polyethylene material for the foam inserts. So, by choosing this product, you’re choosing to reduce the environmental impact of your purchases.
  • be able to reduce the travel typically required for scanner maintenance and repair. Zebra’s Remote Diagnostics and IoT Connector tools enable your support teams to remotely troubleshoot any issues, which helps to reduce scanner/lane downtime and your carbon footprint. (For the record: The MP7000 has proven extremely reliable since it was first deployed in stores in 2017, so troubleshooting support is rarely if ever needed to begin with. But should you need support, knowing it can be provided quickly should be reassuring.)
  • receive the quarterly Zebra Evolution Update, which keeps devices current and seamlessly scales with ongoing enhancements. This helps increase the longevity of the product and reduce the volume of technology you would have to either recycle or dispose of.
  • be able to use U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Level VI power supplies, which comply with more stringent “average active-mode and no-load power consumption metrics” and help keep energy expenses down.

Plus, the MP70000…

  • has up to 50% fewer components (i.e., boards and connectors) than other multi-plane scanners, which means there are fewer parts that you may need to replace or recycle during the scanner’s lifecycle.
  • uses solid state technology, which means less wear and tear. This minimizes breakdown and repair costs while keeping your carbon contributions to a minimum. If the scanner doesn’t break, you won’t have to dispose of anything or worry about the environmental impact of shipping parts back and forth.
  • has several parts that are designed to be recaptured and/or recycled, making the MP7000 eligible for Zebra’s more extensive Circular Economy program. For example, we’ve eliminated glues and adhesives from the MP7000 and only use common fasteners and snap-in features. That will save you money and increase the total “green” value of your investment.
  • is free from major environmental toxins. You won’t find any halogens, mercury, PFO/PFOAs or latex in the MP7000.
  • uses universal cables and power supplies that are compatible with past and future device generations as well as other types of Zebra scanners, once again making it easy to reduce your landfill contributions and overall “cost to upgrade.”

The Takeaway

If you want to reduce your electric bill, you need to turn some things off in your stores. Considering that lights both draw the most power in stores and are among the easiest things to control throughout the day, start there.  

Make sure the LED lights on your checkout lane multi-plane scanners shut off when not in use. Not just after hours, but in between item scans. If a barcoded item is not directly in the imager’s line of sight, you should not be seeing the imager’s light on. If you are, please call your local Zebra representative to talk about how we can get you an MP7000 for each checkout lane. You want scanners to “go dark” when there isn’t an item in the imager’s view. So, if yours aren’t doing that today, it’s time to make a fast change.

I know the last thing you may want to do right now is undertake another “upgrade” project, especially if you recently installed new multi-plane scanners as part of a self-checkout lane expansion or store remodeling. Plus, I know the holiday season isn’t the best time to take your main lanes out of service to replace scanners. But if you’re not planning any major remodeling or expansion and you’ve committed to making your operations more energy efficient for the sake of financial or environmental sustainability (or both), then why wait until a scanner breaks or reaches end of life to replace it? At least do your due diligence now so that you can be ready to make a scanner swap (and start saving money on your power bill) in the new year. You might be surprised at how dramatically this one change improves outcomes during the next peak season in terms of power consumption and the overall shopper experience.

Greater energy efficiency = greater profit margins and a fulfilled promise for greener operations

Or, to put it another way, your bottom line – and the entire planet – becomes healthier, and that’s something I think everyone can get behind, including your customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders.


Editor’s Note:

Want to learn more about how the MP7000 can help make your store operations more energy efficient and your business more environmentally friendly? Watch this:

And this...

David Turturro
David Turturro

David Turturro is currently a Senior Product Manager in the hands free category of Zebra’s Data Capture Solutions group. He has been at Zebra for over 15 years working in the product management organization. In his current role, Mr. Turturro is responsible for new product development and management of Zebra’s multiplane imaging scanner line, which includes the MP7000. 

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