Long known for its human greeters, Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) is now expanding the use of robots to make sure its shelves are properly stocked.
The Arkansas-based retail giant disclosed yesterday plans to increase the use of aisle-roaming robots in more than 50 locations after a pilot test in its home state, Pennsylvania and California. The company didn’t identify in yesterday’s news release the name of the robot maker or the specific number of stores in which it tested the technology. However, sources tell The Robot Report that San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics is Wal-Mart’s supplier.
The robots check for empty shelves and incorrectly stocked or labeled items, according to several published reports.
Chief technology officer Jeremy King told Reuters that the robots are 50% more productive than their human counterparts and can scan shelves more accurately and three times faster. Store employees typically have time to scan shelves only twice a week. Despite their efficiency, the robots won’t replace workers or affect employee headcounts in stores, he said.
Wal-Mart may be the biggest retailer to try the robotic technology — but it’s certainly not the first.
Last year, Minneapolis-based Target disclosed its plan to test Simbe Robotics’ shelf-scanning robot, named Tally, in stores. Also, St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets recently revealed its incorporation of Tally; Pennsylvania-based Ahold U.S. tested them at a Giant Food Stores location to also spot floor hazards, Progressive Grocer reported.
Wal-Mart, which reports annual revenue of $485.8 million, is also testing drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and warehouse inventory checks, Reuters reported.