Grocery-Picking Robots Fulfill Walmart's Automated Future
Walmart will soon be using a new robotics system to pick online grocery orders. The retailer has partnered with Alert Innovation to pilot a specially designed "Alphabot" system that it plans to have up and running by the end 2018. The automated technology will be installed at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, NH, as a part of the store’s grand reopening.
A 20,000-square-foot extension connected to the store will house the new system, which will involve automated mobile carts that retrieve order items stored warehouse-style in the new space. The orders will be delivered to associates at one of four pick stations and personal shoppers will then pick, assemble and deliver orders to customers. The extension will also serve as a dedicated grocery pickup point with drive-through lanes for customers.
"Our online grocery service is already a huge hit with customers, allowing them to quickly and conveniently order groceries online, select a pickup time and have those groceries delivered to their car in minutes," said Mark Ibbotson, EVP of Central Operations, Walmart U.S. in a blog post. "Alphabot will work behind the scenes to make the process even easier by automatically bringing items from storage to associates who will consolidate the items in the order. For our pickup associates, that means less time walking the store aisles in search of products and more time ensuring customers are getting the absolute best in fresh produce, meats, etc."
Walmart's goal is that Alphabot will give associates more time to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles mundane, repeatable tasks.
"Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it," said Ibbotson. "We have a lot to learn about this new technology, and we’re excited about the possibilities of how we can use it to make the future of shopping – and working – even better."
Walmart's regular grocery pickup service is expected to launch Oct. 1 at the Salem store, and grocery delivery from the store will be offered in the coming months. The store will also feature Pickup Towers, and an automated shelf-scanner that helps identify out-of-stock items, incorrect pricing and missing labels. Walmart will also add FAST unloader and Check Out With Me tech for associates.