Retailers have been testing out shelf-scanning robots to find out if they can handle restocking a store's inventory when needed.
“We’re giving them a real-time, actual image of their product layout across the whole store, up to twice or three times a day,” said Red McKay, managing director for Europe at Bossa Nova Robotics, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A recent survey revealed that more than three-quarters of respondents aren’t able to track their inventory in real time. As a result, shoppers looking to pick up an online order in-store may have to wait for confirmation that the product is actually available at a certain location.
“We’ve been talking for years and years about eCommerce, and how we need to merge eCommerce with your in-store commerce,” Lori Mitchell-Keller, co-president of SAP Industries, said in an interview at the National Retail Federation trade show in New York earlier this month. “And yet at the show, I’ve talked to at least five retailers in just one day who are so excited that they’re finally getting rid of their eCommerce distribution center and combining with other distribution centers.”
Companies are looking to make the inventory process easier, without having store workers constantly performing inventory counts. Bossa Nova's robots, which are being tested out at 50 Walmart stores, will use lasers, radar and cameras to review store aisles to figure out which products need to be restocked, as well as help managers target what to restock based on profitability and other factors.
Frederic McCoy, a senior vice president at Jabil Retail, a unit of Jabil Inc., whose Badger Technologies division created a data collection robot, calls it “optimizing the shelf.” He added that 10 retailers will test the company's robots this year, “predominantly grocery, but we’re also looking at the pharmacy space, and we’ve done some trials in home improvement.”