Walmart to introduce thousands more robots instore
Walmart is set to dramatically ramp up its rollout of robots across its store network, promising to add thousands more autonomous assistants in the coming months.
The US retail giant has announced plans to add 1500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 900 pickup towers, 1200 fast unloaders and 300 shelf scanners to its already heavily automated store estate.
Its robotic floor cleaners, built in partnership with Brain Corp, were publicly introduced last autumn and clean and polish an area of the store’s floor first prepped by staff.
Initially just 360 were intended to be rolled out by January 2019, but now the total roll out will top 1860.
Elsewhere the shelf scanners, which roll around aisles scanning prices and checking inventory, finding misplaced items or incorrect prices, will see their initially intended roll out of just 50 rise to 350 after a successful testing phase.
Off of the shop floor, Walmart has also been testing automated unloaders since last summer, aiming to take the strain of its unloading tasks which are reportedly very unpopular with staff.
They automatically scan and sort items in a truck full of merchandise, based on priority and department, dramatically faster than staff are currently able to do.
Their initial roll out was intended to be just 500, but their popularity with staff mean this number will now jump to 1700.
Finally, Walmart has said it will introduce 900 more pickup towers to its network, which act similarly to Amazon lockers allowing customers to securely collect their online orders from local stores, bringing the total to 1700.
“What we’re seeing so far suggests investments in store technology are shaping how we think about turnover and hours,” a Walmart spokesperson said.
“The technology is automating pieces of work or tasks, rather than entire jobs. As that’s happening, we have been able to use many of the hours being saved in other areas of the store — focused more on service and selling for customers.
“We have now added over 40,000 jobs for the online grocery picking role in stores over the last year and a half. These jobs didn’t exist a short time ago. The result so far: we’ve seen our U.S. store associate turnover reduced year-over-year.”