Walmart will be adding more robots for item inventory scanning to 650 of its stores by this Summer. (Image Credit: Walmart)
We marvel at our creations. Celebrate them. Never mourn our losses. This looks like it’ll be another cultural shift like when the automatic elevator was introduced.
In April 2019, Walmart unveiled plans to deploy robots in their stores, taking on jobs that human workers would normally perform. Now, the superstore plans on rolling out shelf-scanning inventory robots, from Bossa Nova, to 650 Walmart stores in the U.S. by this summer. The robots have been designed to scan items on shelves for price accuracy and detect out-of-stock items. Currently, there are robots deployed in 350 stores.
The six-foot-tall autonomous robot uses 15 cameras to scan aisles and shelves and send alerts to Walmart employees in real-time. It also doesn’t have any arms, so it’s not designed to re-stock shelves like other companies are attempting to rollout. Instead, it’s been designed to carry out inventory tasks. Once the robot scans the shelves to detect missing items, it sends the data to the cloud and runs it through proprietary AI to help employees locate the correct product to replace on the shelf.
"Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual," John Crecelius, senior vice president of central operations for Walmart US, said in a blog post. "It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail."
For now, the newly added fleet of robots won’t have much effect on current employees. Walmart’s goal is to use them to help enhance the retail experience for workers. The robots will ensure workers spend less time on menial tasks like cleaning and manual labor. Instead, workers’ priority will be to focus more on customer service and face-to-face interactions to ensures customers have a pleasant shopping experience.
Walmart also announced the rollout of Alphabot, a packing and sorting robot designed to quicken the process of completing online grocery delivery. The system is currently being used in a 20,000 square foot store facility next to a Walmart store in Salem, New Hampshire. The superstore plans on deploying the system to stores located in Mustang, Oklahoma and Burbank, California this year. These robots are able to perform picking and packing tasks for online grocery orders up to ten times faster than humans.
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