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Schnucks Expands In-Store Autonomous Robot Pilot to Free Up Associates' Time

Simbe's Tally robots spot out-of-stocks, detect incorrect prices and help optimize planograms

Midwest grocer Schnuck Markets is expanding its pilot of autonomous robots that spot out-of-stocks, detect incorrect prices and help optimize planograms, among other tasks, to at least 15 of its stores, aiming to free up time for employees to perform other tasks.

The deal continues Schnucks' partnership with Simbe Robotics, which began piloting the Tally grocery technology in Schnucks' stores last July. For the St. Louis-based grocer, Tally can conduct autonomous product audits to help associates better serve customers; provide stock-related alerts, including information on misplaced products; deliver continuous in-store performance insights for brand and service partners; speedily update price tags based on promotions or price adjustments; and optimize product location to improve planogram and shopping flow organization, working in concert with other technology.

At the moment, Tally robots in Schnucks stores scan roughly 35,000 products on store floors three times daily. The increased number will grow average daily scans to more than 1.5 million SKUs.

"We’ve experienced a phenomenon we call 'The Tally Effect,' an immediate improvement in in-store operations and increased teammates productivity," said Dave Steck, Schnucks VP of IT – infrastructure and application development. "Currently, teammates are spending several hours a week completing tasks like inventory scanning and price tag auditing. Since we implemented Tally, the robot now completes those mundane tasks, allowing teammates to focus on customer service. We have confidence that with Simbe, our stores will run more smoothly and customers will continue to have exceptional and modern shopping experiences."

Currently, one Tally robot operates at each of four Schnucks locations: Ballwin, Woods Mill, Des Peres and Webster Groves, Mo. Four more locations each will get a Tally this or next month – including Sierra Vista, Mo.; Cross Keys, Mo.; Twin Oaks, Mo.; and Granite City, Ill. – with more to follow soon.

Schnucks is among other top grocers employing automated robots to assist with floor-level issues. To help free up associates' time, Ahold Delhaize USA has been piloting similar robots at several Food Lion, Giant and Martin's stores to help detect out-of-stocks, floor hazards and more; Minneapolis-based Target Corp. performed a similar pilot in 2016; and last year, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart filed a patent for drone technology to be used in its stores for similar purposes. Walmart also unveiled the Auto-C autonomous cleaner, which uses assisted-autonomy technology to clean and polish floors, saving the two hours a day it takes an associate to do the same work.

Schnuck Markets Inc. operates 118 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa, and employs more than 14,000 teammates. The company is No. 31 on Progressive Grocer's 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.

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