Walmart looks to automate grocery pick-up
Walmart is piloting a new robotics system that fills customers’ online grocery orders from the backroom of a supercenter.
The Alphabot system, developed especially for Walmart in a partnership with startup Alert Innovation, is being installed at the supercenter in Salem, NH as a part of a renovation. A 20,000-square-foot extension connected to the store houses the new system and will serve as a dedicated grocery pickup point with drive-thru lanes for customers.
Mark Ibbotson, EVP of central operations, Walmart U.S., said in a blog entry, “When completed, automated mobile carts will retrieve ordered items – stored warehouse-style in this new space – then deliver them to our associates at one of four pick stations. Our personal shoppers will then pick, assemble and deliver orders to customers.”
The “vast majority” of grocery products Walmart offers in-store are expected to be fulfilled through this system, though personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items.
The system appears to deliver speed and efficiencies. About 95 percent of orders will be picked up in less than eight minutes, Walmart told Yahoo Tech.
Mr. Ibbotson noted that pickup associates will spend less time walking store aisles and spend more “ensuring customers are getting the absolute best in fresh produce, meats, etc.”
He added, “With the aid of Alphabot, our associates will have more time to focus on service and selling, the two things they often tell us are the most enjoyable part of the job, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks. Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it.”
Alphabot is expected to be in operation by the end of the year.
Walmart offers grocery pickup services in 1,800 stores, with plans to expand to 2,000 by the end of this year. Alphabot may also support home grocery delivery. In March, Walmart announced plans to expand grocery delivery service to 100 markets nationally, reaching 40 percent of U.S. households by the end of the year.
The remodeled Salem store will also include Walmart’s Pickup Towers for online orders.
- Associates and Alphabot Team Up to Make Walmart’s Popular Grocery Pickup Service Even Better – Walmart
- Exclusive: Walmart unveils grocery-picking robots in test store – Yahoo Tech
- Walmart pilots a grocery-picking robot to fulfill customers’ online orders – TechCrunch
- Walmart tests robots to speed online grocery pickup – Supermarket News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a system like Alphabot solving many of the challenges around in-store grocery pickup? Would such a system likely do more to support in-store grocery pick-up or online delivery?