Walmart Is Expanding Its Robotic Workforce

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Walmart Is Expanding Its Robotic Workforce

By Gina Acosta - 01/13/2020
Walmart Is Expanding Its Robotic Workforce
The 6-foot-tall devices contain 15 cameras each, which scan aisles and shelves and send alerts to employees in real time

Walmart Inc. is adding shelf-scanning robots to 650 more U.S. stores by the end of the summer, according to Bloomberg.

The new robots, designed by San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics Inc., join the ranks of Walmart’s increasingly automated workforce, which also includes devices to scrub floors, unload trucks and gather online grocery orders.

“It speeds up the entire cycle,” John Crecelius, Walmart’s SVP of store innovations, told Bloomberg.

Atlanta-based NCR Corp., which has supplied Walmart with cash registers and self-checkout kiosks for years, will handle the installation and upkeep of the Bossa Nova machines, Bloomberg reported.

David Wilkinson, NCR’s SVP and general manager for retail, said that he expects robots will be in “the majority” of Walmart’s 4,750 U.S. stores one day. They might not all be from Bossa Nova, however: Walmart has also tested a shelf-scanning device, made by Nicholasville, Ky.-based Badger Technologies, in a Bluegrass State store. Bossa Nova, meanwhile, has done some tests with Walmart rival Albertsons Cos., Bloomberg noted.

Walmart’s Crecelius declined to give details to Bloomberg about how much the robots have reduced out-of-stock products, saying only that the metric has improved, with the devices traveling a total of 50,000 miles, scanning 1 million aisles and 500 million products. 

"Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual," Crecelius said in a company blog post about automation in April. "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."

Walmart also recently unveiled Alphabot, a packing and sorting robot meant to speed up the fulfillment process for online grocery delivery. 

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and ecommerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. The company is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.