Walmart is expanding its use of robots, or “smart associates,” to automate a variety of repetitive tasks such as cleaning floors or checking inventory on shelves, as well as rolling out a swath of new pickup towers.
“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 VP of central operations for Walmart U.S. “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.”
The rollout includes 1,500 additional autonomous floor scrubbers, which are now in use in over 200 stores. Dubbed “Auto-C” the machine can be programmed to travel throughout the open parts of the store, leaving behind a clean, polished floor. Associates can reprogram routes as store layouts are changed.
In addition, 300 automated “Auto-S” shelf-scanning robots will be added to travel store aisles and scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy. Working with the shelf scanner bots, 1,200 additional FAST Unloaders will automatically scan and sort items unloaded from trucks based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly – ultimately giving our customers what they want, when they want it.
Walmart will also add 900 new pickup towers. The kiosks are now in place in over 700 locations. To use the service, a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup. The associate loads the ordered item into the Pickup Tower. When a customer receives a notification via email that the item is available, they can use the Pickup Tower like a giant vending machine to retrieve their purchase.