Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a new robot that scans shelves for out-of-stocks, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels in a small number of its stores.
The new shelf-scanning technology is intended to free up floor-level associates’ time to focus more on doing what machines typically can't do as well as humans: better serve customers and sell merchandise. Stores currently testing the technology are in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California.
Based on the initial tests, Walmart plans to expand the robots to an additional 50 locations. As with anything introduced to stores, associate and customer feedback will guide how and where the mega-retailer will use the technology down the line.
“This combination of people and technology is helping make our stores more convenient and easier to shop, ensuring that products are available when our customers want them,” the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said in a blog entry. “It’s just another example of how we’re using technology to save our associates and customers time.”
In an interview with Reuters, Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and ecommerce, said that the robots are 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts and can scan shelves significantly more accurately and three times faster. Store employees typically have time to scan shelves only twice a week. Despite their greater efficiency, the robots won't replace workers or affect employee headcounts in stores.