Will shelf scanning robots put an end to out-of-stocks?
Of the numerous types of robots that are catching on for use in the front of the store, robotic shelf scanners are the ones that retailers see being most effective, according to a new RetailWire Research study.
The study, conducted in conjunction with Brain Corp, found 59 percent of retailers said shelf scanning is the function or application that can be most effectively filled by robots. Order picking came in second at 47 percent, followed by moving product loads (35 percent), pricing accuracy checks (35 percent), floor cleaning (21 percent) and planogram compliance (21 percent).
Retailers’ emphasis on using robots for shelf scanning likely comes from the perception that the technology is a consistently reliable means of maintaining in-stock positions and the successful implementation of omnichannel tactics, including store pickup and delivery.
At least one test of shelf-scanning inventory robots did not go according to plan. Walmart announced late last year that it was scrapping its pilot of shelf-scanning robots. The chain found that in-stock positions could be more cost-effectively managed by human associates. Walmart did, however, continue to use the floor scrubber robots that it had been piloting to handle front-of-store janitorial tasks.
In addition to shelf scanners, other robots that roam store floors and undertake shelf-related duties have been coming to market recently.
Retailers including Ahold Delhaize have been piloting UV disinfection robots, according to Progressive Grocer. The robots roll down aisles using projected UV light to inactivate potentially dangerous pathogens lurking on shelves.
The sales floor is not the only area of retail where robots are being seen with a greater frequency.
Nearly three-quarters of retailers in the RetailWire study say that their use of robots in warehouses or distribution centers has increased due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
This trend can be observed in practice with Kroger, which has built large robot hive warehouses in the U.S. in partnership with Ocado, after that provider had success in Europe and Canada.
- Robots in Retail: Examining the Autonomous Opportunity – RetailWire Research
- Will Walmart’s decision to scrap robots have far-ranging effects? – RetailWire
- Get Ready for More Robots Cleaning Grocery Stores – Progressive Grocer
- Will a skyscraper store change how groceries are delivered in cities? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see retailers most likely to put robots to work in stores and other facilities? Do you think the cost-effectiveness question will be answered by robotics companies sooner rather than later?