April 10, 2019
And now, Walmart believes, the stockroom, janitorial, sales, and front-end associates at its discount stores could use a little robotic help, too. So, as of April 9, the largest U.S. retailer has announced that it will be putting automated helpers at its locations nationwide.
“Smart assistants”—which is what the retailer has dubbed its automated staff—“have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” Walmart said in a press release this week.
Indeed, Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time each associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks—such as cleaning floors or checking shelf inventory. This gives associates more of an opportunity to serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.
Throughout the year 2018, pilot tests of these technologies have been well-received. “But it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations,” the company says.” That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America.”
And, Walmart promises, “We’re going big.”
Among the new additions will be:
- 300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
- 1,200 FAST unloaders: Working with the shelf scanner, the FAST unloader automatically scans and sorts 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.
- 900 pickup towers: When a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup, an associate loads the ordered item into a pickup tower. The customer then receives a notification via email that the item is available from the pickup tower; which works like a giant vending machine to retrieve and unload the purchase.
That’s a lot of extra help for associates—and the staff is enthusiastic. According to SVP of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. John Crecelius, “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.
“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.”
Research contact: @Walmart