Inventory replenishment robots are rolling out in 50 Walmart locations, according to a Thursday (Oct. 26) Reuters report. The goal is to stock product faster and save employees time when filling empty shelves. The robots have already been piloted in a number of stores, according to the article.
“If you are running up and down the aisle, and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well and they don’t like [doing] it,” said Jeremy King, Walmart’s chief technology officer, in an interview with Reuters.
The robots, two feet in size and fitted with cameras, scan aisles to determine stock level, including whether items are missing or whether a product has been left in the wrong place by shoppers. Retailers lose sales every time a consumer looks for an out-of-stock item.
King said the robots are 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts, according to the article, and they improve inventory accuracy levels and scan shelves at three times the rate of human employees. The inventory replenishment robots release follows other recent unattended retail news, specifically that the number of self-checkouts at brick-and-mortar retailers has grown by 67 percent in 2017 alone.
Elsewhere, Walmart has been busy cultivating its digital presence through the purchase of online storefronts ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, Bonobos, Parcel, Hayneedle and ModCloth to improve its eCommerce prospects. Marc Lore, Walmart’s head of eCommerce, noted more such acquisitions are on the way.
“Specialist positioning is better than mass,” Lore explained. “We’ve empowered the leaders of these companies to basically run the category across the entire entity.”
Earlier this year, Walmart announced the creation of Store No. 8, an internal effort to cultivate online retail startups in-house. The venture will be tasked with finding the cutting edge of technology that could be useful to Walmart’s total retail goals, as well as to create relationships with entrepreneurs, particularly those working in artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies.