team members in front of a self-checkout register

five weeks to launch: a self-checkout story

Check this out: Thanks to a group of experts who gave a project a new direction, self-checkout (SCO) registers are coming soon to Target stores across the country. The new checkout option will allow our team members to spend more time on the sales floor helping guests.

Just one year ago, achieving this feat seemed a long way off. A SCO pilot program was underway at 16 of our U.S. stores, but stability issues created huge challenges. The original system used older technology with limited memory on each machine, which meant the checkout process was slow and machines crashed frequently, requiring 40-to-60-minute reboots. It was clear the solution wasn’t working out, but the teams involved weren’t ready to give up yet.

“If we stopped work on the SCO project, we knew it would be done for good,” says Kelly Hanson, a senior group manager on the Target Technology Services (TTS) team. “But guests tell us they really want the option of self-checkout in our stores, so it was important to find a way to make it happen.” The question was, how quickly could a team of experts come together to find a better solution to stabilize those 16 pilot stores and set Target up to expand SCO to more stores in the future?

Thanks to quick action, they did it in an incredible five weeks. A cross-functional team of 10 members formed, including experts from solution delivery, engineering, security, infrastructure, support operations and support teams across Target. Together, they brainstormed ideas to reinvent the solution and began testing prototypes to address for the major pain points. They chose a newer, more consolidated operating system, and also upgraded the machines’ hardware, which increased memory levels.

“The small, dedicated team approach kept our group energized, and that’s what made it possible to make such huge strides in a short amount of time,” says Julie Wegmiller, senior group manager, Store Operations. 

“Partner support and trust along the way was critical,” adds Michelle Freese, Solution Delivery program manager, TTS. “We earned it by conducting bi-weekly show-and-tell sessions to transparently communicate progress and discuss challenges, and we empowered the team to take risks and move quickly.” 

At Target’s testing labs in Minneapolis, the team ran more than 2,000 automated test cases and hundreds of manual tests on newly updated machines, designed to simulate every kind of transaction a guest might make. None of the test cases failed; everything worked perfectly. Results were clear: The same transaction on the new system took 30 seconds less (half the time!) than it did on the original, and a reboot now took just six minutes.

In August, the team downloaded the new software onto the SCO machines at Target’s store in downtown Minneapolis for its first field test, and guests lined up to try them out. The machines performed beautifully, handling more than 600 transactions with no issues or crashes.

“This past month has been an adventure,” says David Neu, Delivery Services manager, TTS. “Like watching a movie where a desperately trailing runner catches up and crosses the line in a photo finish.” In the coming months, another 39 of our stores nationwide will introduce the SCO registers.

“This is really happening, and it’s because we were able to count on the incredible partnership and focus of this committed team when we needed it the most,” says Kate Ash, senior group manager, TTS.

“Failure was not determined by whether or not we launched certain programs or software by a certain date,” says Kelly. “Failure would be not making the right decision at the right time for our company and guests. Luckily, because this amazing team of partners refused to give up, self-checkout is coming to Target this year.”

Visit the Shopping Experience page to see more of the ways our guests can shop Target. Interested in joining one of our technology teams? Visit the Careers pages to learn about career areas.

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