Bossa Nova became an exciting new addition to Sheffield’s tech scene in October 2018 when it opened its first European headquarters right here in the city. We caught up with Red McKay who heads up Bossa Nova in Sheffield, to find out how the company’s robots can improve shopping for us all and why now, in particular, data provided by the bots is crucial to helping retailers keep up with demand. Red also explained how the global company is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and what the ‘new normal’ looks like for his team.
Established in the US in 2005, Bossa Nova creates and supplies autonomous robots to the retail sector. The company’s technology delivers sophisticated, actionable real-time data, to increase efficiencies for retailers and improve the shopping experience for the public.
In 2018, the company opened its first European headquarters in Courtwood House, Sheffield, which is headed up by Red McKay, Managing Director of Bossa Nova Robotics Europe Ltd and Vice President of Global Business Development. Red explains how the company’s technology works:
“Bossa Nova operates the largest fleet of autonomous, shelf scanning robots in the world and scans more than 230 million shelf labels, every month. This data is then fed back in real-time to store associates, who can see immediately where out-of-stock products need replenishing.
“For retailers, this increases in-store efficiency, reduces operational costs, boosts customer satisfaction levels (online and in-store) and helps them keep up with demand – something which the UK in particular is finding incredibly challenging at the moment.”
Bossa Nova operates in the food retail sector, citing Walmart in the US as one of its biggest customers. The company has over 300 employees across the globe, with 14 of those based here in Sheffield. The decision to locate its European operation in Sheffield was based on a few factors. Red says,
“It’s a central UK location with two very strong universities in the AI and robotics field. The Council is really supportive of businesses like ours, plus there’s a great work / life balance and the cost of living is significantly less than some other regions across the UK. On a personal level, I also wanted to support the city I’m from.
“What could be improved? I imagine every city outside of London wishes for better transport links. It would certainly help for Sheffield to have faster access to the likes of our capital, Birmingham and Newcastle.”
Plans for the future
The company is looking to expand into other sectors beyond food retail. Red explains,
“We are adapting and developing our technology all the time so we can support non-food retailers in the future with different store layouts and formats.”
In six months’ time, Red hopes to have doubled Bossa Nova’s workforce and is confident that the retail industry’s appetite for data will support this growth. He continues,
“What has surprised me is the speed at which the retail industry has developed an understanding of the technology available over the past 12-24 months. It’s positive really, that data is now so sought after, whether that’s inventory data, engagement data or any other kind of retail analytics. This drive to better understand store data continues to accelerate too; we’re seeing huge amounts of interest in how our bots can deliver ROI.”
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
As this is written, the world is responding to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. We asked Red how things are going for Bossa Nova and what they are doing differently to adapt to the situation.
“The biggest priority for us is, and has always been, the physical and mental wellbeing of our teams. That is our first and foremost concern.
“Next, it’s about the support we can offer to our customers. For grocers, their priority is to feed the nation while we tackle this unprecedented healthcare crisis. We are working hard now, so we’re ready when this passes and we return to a ‘new’ normal to deliver data to retailers.”
The company is determined to maintain a positive spirit among the team and is delivering clear, regular and factual communications from leadership. They are also being open and flexible to their employees’ changing environments and priorities. Red explains,
“It’s about acknowledging life is different at the moment, and employees often have their families or little ones to look after. We’ve got to recognise individuals’ differing needs and be flexible to that – whether it’s childcare, food shopping or caring for elderly relatives.”
“This is likely to be our ‘new normal’ for a while, so of course, when working from home, connectivity is hugely important. We’re exploring tools for wellbeing but also tools for collaboration. This might be bigger, touchscreen computer monitors or interactive drawing software to help us build and create together, for example.”