Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?
Walmart wants its associates to deal with its customers. Leave the other stuff to the robots.
In a company blog post, Walmart announced plans to expand the use of robotics and other “smart assistants” with the goal of running its stores more efficiently, freeing associates from mundane tasks such as cleaning floors and checking shelf inventory while enabling them to “server customers face-to-face on the sales floor.”
Tests conducted last year showed that technologies such as the “Auto-C” floor cleaners improve the shopping experience for customers and the work environment for associates. The retailer plans to add the robot floor scrubbers to 1,500 stores.
Walmart’s commitment to automation won’t end with brighter floors. The retailer also said it will add 300 additional “Auto-S” shelf scanners to its stores to reduce out-of-stock positions and improve pricing accuracy.
The chain also touted other automated technology that is enabling it to improve both efficiency and effectiveness at the store level, including FAST Unloaders that share data with Auto-S units to quickly move products off of incoming trucks to get them to shelves based on need. The ultimate goal, according to the blog post, is to give “customers what they want, when they want it.”
Walmart Automation: Pickup Tower, Floor Scrubbers, Self-Scanners, FAST Unloaders – Video source: Walmart
Walmart also announced that it is continuing to use automation to build on the chain’s omnichannel initiatives. Specifically, it plans to add automated Pickup Towers at 900 additional stores. The units, which Walmart equates to “a giant vending machine,” are used to store online orders for customers.
“Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual,” said John Crecelius, senior vice president of central operations for Walmart U.S. in a statement. “It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Walmart as an innovator when it comes to the use of automation to operate both more efficiently from a business perspective and more effectively from the customer’s? What other retailers are noteworthy for using automation and robotics in ways that move the needle for customers, associates and vendors?