NEW RO­BOTS SCAN SHELVES TO RE­STOCK ITEMS FASTER

The ap­prox­i­mately 2-foot ro­bot comes with a tower that is fit­ted with cam­eras that scan aisles to check stock and iden­tify miss­ing and mis­placed items, in­cor­rect prices and mis­la­bel­ing.

Times of Oman - - E- IMES -

WAL-Mart Stores is rolling out shelf-scan­ning ro­bots in more than 50 US stores to re­plen­ish in­ven­tory faster and save em­ploy­ees time when prod­ucts run out.

The ap­prox­i­mately 2-foot (0.61-me­tre) ro­bots come with a tower that is fit­ted with cam­eras that scan aisles to check stock and iden­tify miss­ing and mis­placed items, in­cor­rect prices and mis­la­bel­ing. The ro­bots pass that data to store em­ploy­ees, who then stock the shelves and fix er­rors.

Out-of-stock items are a big prob­lem for re­tail­ers since they miss out on sales ev­ery time a shop­per can­not find a prod­uct on store shelves.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest re­tailer, has been test­ing shelf­s­can­ning ro­bots in a hand­ful of stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Cal­i­for­nia.

“If you are run­ning up and down the aisle and you want to de­cide if we are out of Chee­rios or not, a hu­man doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” Jeremy King, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer for Wal­mart US and e-com­merce, told Reuters.

The com­pany said the ro­bots would not re­place work­ers or af­fect em­ployee head­count in stores.

The ro­bots are 50 per cent more pro­duc­tive than their hu­man coun­ter­parts and can scan shelves sig­nif­i­cantly more ac­cu­rately and three times faster, King said. Store em­ploy­ees only have time to scan shelves about twice a week.

The idea of in­stalling ro­bots to au­to­mate retail is not new. Ri­val Ama­zon.com Inc uses small Kiva ro­bots in its ware­houses to han­dle pick­ing and pack­ing, sav­ing al­most 20 per cent in op­er­at­ing ex­penses.

For Wal-Mart, the move is part of a broader ef­fort to digi­tise its stores to make shop­ping faster.

In the past year, it has in­stalled gi­ant “pickup tow­ers” that op­er­ate like self-ser­vice kiosks and where cus­tomers can pick up their on­line or­ders.

The com­pany has also speeded up the check­out process by al­low­ing cus­tomers to scan their own pur­chases, and it has digi­tised op­er­a­tions like phar­macy and fi­nan­cial ser­vices in stores.

Wal-Mart has also been test­ing drones for home de­liv­ery, curb­side pickup and check­ing ware­house in­ven­to­ries.

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