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11/03/2020

Walmart Drops Robotics Contract

Walmart Drops Robotics Contract
For now, it seems, Walmart will use human workers to do the jobs that Bossa Nova's robots did in inventory management.

Walmart reportedly will no longer use robots from Bossa Nova Robotics to scan shelves and help manage inventory. The retail chain has ended its five-year contract with the San Francisco-based company, according to Reuters.

“This was one idea we tried in roughly 500 stores, just as we are trying other ideas in additional stores,” Walmart said in a statement.

For now, it seems, Walmart will use human workers to do the jobs that the robots did, though the retailer told Reuters that it will continue to test new technology — an effort that potentially could have Walmart developing its own systems.

Robots are generally on the rise in food and other types of retail, and for a variety of jobs.

In late October, for instance, Sam's Club said that it would add 372 autonomous floor scrubbers, manufactured by Tennant Co. and powered by Brain Corp, to its fleet. The expansion will result in a floor scrubber in nearly all of the retailer's 600 U.S. stores. 

Schnuck Markets Inc., meanwhile, recently said it would launching Simbe Robotics' autonomous robot Tally in 46 additional stores to enhance inventory management. These stores are in addition to the 16 stores that have been piloting Tally during the past couple of years, three since July 2017, and the 13 other stores since October 2018. 

Robots aren't the only technology that can help food and other retailers keep a closer eye on inventory, and provide enhanced customer service. Smart shelving and labeling technology continues to gain interest as the pandemic wears on, serving consumer desires for less physical interaction inside stores, among other demands. Those systems often require the deployment of cameras to keep track of what's out-of-stock. Some systems, though, are anchored to consumer smartphones.

For instance, Fresh Thyme recently said that it aims to enrich the natural product shopper's experience by adding special codes to shelf tags. That will enable customers and employees to access rich-product content, at the shelf, simply by scanning a QR code with their smartphones.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Walmart-owned Sam's Club ranks No. 9 on the list. St, Louis-based Schnucks is No. 63, on the list, and Downers Grove, Illinois-based Fresh Thyme is No. 93.

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