Walmart puts robots to work with humans in more stores
A test of shelf-scanning robots in a small number of stores has gone well enough that Walmart has announced it will add the units to 50 additional locations.
The robots, which are about two feet tall, use a camera to determine if items are out of stock, have wrong prices or are missing labels. The information is transmitted to store management so personnel can address problem areas. Walmart, which has been criticized in the past for out-of-stocks, said it is keen to use automation “to handle tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual.”
The retailer contends that the robots will free up human associates to spend more time serving customers. Walmart has said that the rollout of the technology to additional stores was informed by input from associates and customers at the initial test locations in Arkansas, California and Pennsylvania. The same would be true for any further expansion of the technology.
Walmart is not the only retailer testing robotics to scan shelves to reduce out-of-stocks. In July, Schnucks Markets announced it was running a pilot at three of its stores. The robots were deployed three times a day (morning, afternoon and night) to send real-time information to store associates. The devices were programmed to avoid busy aisles and to stop moving if customers approached.
[Schnucks did not reply to requests for further information on its test by the time of this publication. Further details will be added if they become available.]
- Walmart Tests Automation to Scan Shelves, Free up Time – YouTube
- That’s Smart: See the Tech Helping Us Serve You Better – Walmart
- Can robots keep shelves stocked at Schnucks? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect customer service levels in stores such as Walmart to improve with the use of shelf-scanning robots? Can automation be used to address other “repeatable, predictable and manual” tasks performed in stores in order to free up associates to better serve customers?