Should robots take over tracking store inventory?
A robot has arrived to replace one of the most mundane tasks of retail associates: inventory checking. From Simbe Robotics, Tally promises to audit shelves cheaper, more frequently, and significantly faster than existing processes with near-perfect accuracy.
Standing 38 inches tall — although adjustable to a retailer’s shelf height requirements — Tally autonomously roams the store auditing shelves for out-of-stock items, low stock items, misplaced items and pricing errors. With a suite of sensors, Tally operates safely during normal store hours alongside shoppers and employees.
The robot takes high-resolution images of product labels at each shelf and then returns to its charging dock. Matching its findings against a store’s planogram, the data captured is sent securely to the cloud for processing and real-time analysis.
Store managers can use the data to quickly restock and reorder. Regional managers can conduct inventory analysis across stores. Simbe Robotics also may sell its scanning data to vendors for shelf-performance insights.
"Tally helps retailers address these challenges by providing more precise and timely analysis of the state of in-store merchandise and freeing up staff to focus on customer service," said Brad Bogolea, CEO and co-founder of Simbe Robotics, in a statement.
Mr. Bogolea told CNN Money that one Tally robot can scan 15,000 items in an hour while a single employee would take between 20 to 30 hours to audit all those items.
Simbe Robotics also claims that the traditional use of IT systems and manual labor for auditing is often inaccurate. Its press release cited an Aberdeen Group study finding that seventy percent of retailers rate themselves "average" or "below average" with respect to inventory management.
Tally, which is currently in trial with several North American retailers, requires no infrastructure changes to the operation and is being offered to stores to rent for a monthly fee. Mr. Bogolea contends the robot winds up being less expensive than using store associates.
Several articles lamented the possible loss of human jobs as robot technology improve and become less expensive.
- Simbe Robotics Unveils Tally; World’s First Fully Autonomous Robotic Shelf – Simbe Robotics
- There is a robot on aisle 4 – CNN Money
- Why this robot may soon be cruising down your grocery store’s aisles – The Washington Post (tiered sub.)
- Robotics Startups Are Coming to the Retail Aisle – Fortune
Should robots audit shelves instead of humans? Will shoppers get accustomed to shopping alongside a scanning robot?