Everything You Need To Know About Walmart Robots

Aadhya Khatri - Feb 04, 2021


Everything You Need To Know About Walmart Robots

Last month, Walmart robots were enlisted again as the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a large number of online orders

Last month, Walmart robots were enlisted again as the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a large number of online orders.

The company said it would set up warehouses with self-driving robots at some of its stores. The robots would be in charge of preparing customers’ orders and making sure that they are ready to be picked up in less than an hour.

Walmart robots
The robots would be in charge of preparing customers’ orders and making sure that they are ready to be picked up in less than an hour

Walmart refused to elaborate on the number of such warehouses it would build but there are reports of construction in Plano, Texas; Lewisville, Texas; Bentonville, Arkansas; and American Fork, Utah. A year ago, a test site was set up at a Walmart store in Salem, New Hampshire.

When the pandemic started to wreak havoc last year, Walmart reported a 300% surge in pickup and delivery sales. And by building warehouses and employing robots at Walmart, the company hoped to accelerate curbside pickups as customers are avoiding going inside stores due to COVID-19 concerns.

According to the company, the Walmart robots will not roam store aisles but stay in warehouses built next to or within stores. Some stores will have windows so that shoppers can see the robots at work.

Walmart Robot Instore
According to the company, the Walmart robots will not roam store aisles but stay in warehouses built next to or within stores

If you are wondering ‘What do the little robots at Walmart do?’ here are some of their daily tasks. They will carry small goods like crates of cereal or juice to human workers who will then put them in bags for customers.

Walmart robots aren’t the first in the industry. Amazon has been using similar tech in its own warehouses with robots carrying vitamins, books, and some other small packages to workers.

The retail corporation said robots in Walmart stores helped save time as human workers didn’t have to walk down aisles to pick up goods anymore.

However, since the robots can handle small items only, workers still have to go inside the stores to pick up fresh groceries and heavier items.

When Did Walmart Start Using Robots

Walmart robots were first deployed back in 2017 in 50 locations and they are supplied by Bossa Nova Robotics. Back then, the company said the technology would simplify routine tasks in its stores. They would use machine vision to identify which products need restocking.

Ns Bossanova robots
Walmart robots were first deployed back in 2017 in 50 locations and they are supplied by Bossa Nova Robotics

What Are The Robots At Walmart

The robots are manufactured by Bossa Nova Robotics – a company based in California.

They are approximately two-feet (0.6m) tall with sensors and lights on an extendable tower to scan shelves.

Walmart robots scan shelves
They are approximately two-feet (0.6m) tall with sensors and lights on an extendable tower to scan shelves

The Walmart robots would be their charging stations until they receive missions issued by a human employee. In this way, the company hoped to save time and increase work efficiency.

However, in November last year, the company called off the plan after a trial at 500 stores. The reason it gave was human employees could do the job perfectly fine and that it worried about customers’ reaction to the robots.

The initial plan was for the robots to scan shelves in stores and sending alerts in real-time to human staff informing them of stock levels. Walmart said its ultimate goal was to automate the task and help shoppers save money.

Walmart Shelf Scan Robot
The initial plan was for the robots to scan shelves in stores and sending alerts in real-time to human staff informing them of stock levels

Walmart robots were tested in 500 stores and the company expected to expand the scope but later, it announced that it had axed the plan, saying that it wanted to focus on other projects.

A source with insight into the matter said the company came up with a simpler method to check inventory. Now with more customers buying online, store staff has more time to walk down aisles and identify inventory issues. However, Walmart had not ruled out the automation idea entirely, the source said.

Another source mentioned the concern of John Furner - Walmart US chief executive that customers might react negatively to robots inside the stores.

Johnfurner
Another source mentioned the concern of John Furner - Walmart US chief executive that customers might react negatively to robots inside the stores

Efficient inventory checks are becoming more and more important during the pandemic as the company’s online orders had doubled as a result. So what Walmart robots were supposed to do was to ensure new product orders were placed on time, remove out-of-date stock, and supply accurate data on collection and delivery services.

>>> Walmart Uses AI-Powered Devices To Detect Potential Theft

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