Shelf-Scanning Robots to Join Walmart Team

Walmart announced this week that it will begin rolling out scanning robots to more stores, after initial trial runs in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and California were successful. (Image credit: YouTube)

Walmart announced this week that it will begin rolling out shelf-scanning robots to more stores, after initial trial runs in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and California were successful. The company is marketing the move as a time-saving strategy for its employees:

...using automation to handle tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual, like scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels. This new shelf-scanning technology frees up time for our associates to focus on what they tell us are the most important and exciting parts of working at Walmart – serving customers and selling merchandise.

For now, Walmart plans to introduce the robots into 50 U.S. stores and indicates employees should not be concerned about their futures with the company.

Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told Reuters that the robots are 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts and can scan shelves significantly more accurately and three times faster. The introduction of these robots will be an additional resource for stores, not a replacement for employees, he said, so it will not affect employment numbers in stores.

This is not Walmart's first move toward digitizing its stores and shopping experience.

The company has also speeded up the checkout process by allowing customers to scan their own purchases, and it has digitized operations like pharmacy and financial services in stores.

What might be next?

Wal-Mart has also been testing drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and checking warehouse inventories.

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