, , ,

Walmart is going high-tech in an effort to automate and better serve its customers. After a successful test, the superstore has announced plans to roll out shelf-scanning robots across 50 additional locations. The two-foot-tall robots patrol the store, looking for items that are out of stock or goods that are incorrectly priced or missing tags. The information each robot collects then gets compiled and reported to management, so that human associates can better target their efforts to keep things running smoothly. By automating these repetitive and predictable tasks, Walmart hopes to free up its human staff to provide better customer service and handle tasks that cannot be easily outsourced to robotic labor.

The shelf-scanning robot program continues to be tweaked in response to feedback from customers and associates, so that the robots are used as effectively as possible. The hope is that the program can be implemented and expanded to an even greater number of stores in the future. Walmart also is seeking input from other retailers that might test similar robots in their own stores. For example, updates to the existing program might allow the robots to be programmed to skip busy aisles or stop when approached by a customer, to help avoid inconvenience and accidents. With more stock on the shelves and human associates freed up to better meet the needs of customers, Walmart believes is poised for success with its new robotic program, when it comes to both bottom line and the perceptions of customers.

Discussion Question: 

  1. How and why is Walmart using robots?

Source: George Anderson, “Walmart Puts Robots to Work with Humans in More Stores,” Retail Wire, October 27, 2017