As all retail brands are competing against each other in order to stay ahead in technological supremacy. Bentonville-headquartered American MNC Walmart recently unveiled its newest robotic weapon to take on Amazon in the retail battle. The former has rolled out a cadre of robots that are programmed to retrieve items from online grocery orders.
The company has been revamping its tech-landscape from the past few years specifically in the robotics arena. Walmart has also been testing them in a small warehouse attached to a store in Salem, New Hampshire, since the middle of last year. According to the company, the system is now “fully operational and working with associates.” Moreover, it is expected to drastically speed up the online grocery turnaround times.”
As noted by GeekWire, the robots unveiled by the company operate autonomously inside the 20,000-square-foot warehouse, collecting shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen food. They later deliver the items to a spot where a Walmart employee double-checks everything, bags the food and finishes the order.
When a customer orders items online, employees usually roam around in stores picking them which is a time-consuming process and needs longer lead times between the customer ordering items online and its delivery. However, even after the implementation of robots, employees will continue to pick items that are produced by hand.
Brian Roth, a senior manager of pickup automation and digital operations for Walmart US said in a statement, “Ultimately, this will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of online grocery. And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.”
Moreover, the company has allied with Alert Innovation since 2016 to work on this project. Walmart will continue to refine the Alphabot and the Salem store is expected to remain its home. According to the company, after receiving employee feedbacks, it will consider rolling out the system at other stores as well.
The growth of this technology, the merger of online ordering with the company’s numerous stores’ network under the banner of Walmart has been driven by several resources. Although Walmart is the country’s largest grocery retail brand yet it faces tough challenges from Amazon which is and has been making a hefty investment in grocery shopping innovation by acquiring Whole Foods, a supermarket company.
Talking about Walmart’s online grocery business, Tom Ward, senior vice president of central operations for Walmart said, “Demand for this business continues to grow and systems like Alphabot allow us to scale enormously.”
According to Roth, Alphabot will prove to be transformative for the company. He further added in his statement, “By assembling and delivering orders to associates, Alphabot is streamlining the order process, allowing associates to do their jobs with greater speed and efficiency. Ultimately, this will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of online grocery. And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.”
Moreover, he is optimistic about its impact on the company’s supply chain, for which he asserted, “This is going to be a transformative impact on Walmart’s supply chain. Alphabot is what we think of as micro-fulfillment – an inventive merger of eCommerce and brick-and-mortar methods.”