February 10, 2022
Inventory tracking robots didn’t work for Walmart, but now the company is trying them out at Sam’s Club.
Walmart showcases 600 floor cleaning robots at Sam’s Club. The devices, supplied by Brain Corp., are also equipped with shelf-scanning technology to take stock of inventory while they’re in operation, according to The street. Robots will be present in every Sam’s Club location.
In November 2020, Walmart finished his pilot of autonomous on-shelf inventory robots after concluding that it was cheaper to simply leave the task of noticing stock-outs to the employees working on the shelves. Walmart has also raised concerns that customers are reacting badly to the sight of inventory robots wandering the aisles. The retailer had about 500 inventory robots operating in 7,400 stores before the pilot ended.
In-store robotics are becoming an increasingly common feature among large grocers, with much of the technology being adopted to manage operations behind the scenes. More and more grocers are managing picking and packing with robotic solutions.
Other grocers have also piloted robots in the customer-facing part of their operations. Stop and shop began putting Marty the wide-eyed, danger-detecting robot in stores in 2019. The robot hasn’t proved popular, especially since the pandemic began. As social distancing rules were put in place nationwide, Stop & Shop customers began to complain that Marty’s looming presence made it difficult for them to keep their distance from each other, according to Mashable.
While it may be perplexing that Walmart would implement similar technology to Sam’s Club that failed in its mainline stores, the scan and go technology, which has remained in constant use at Sam’s Club, has been tested and fall twice at Walmart. The first pilot ran from 2012 to 2014 and the second from 2017 to 2018.
More recently, Walmart launched a scan and go option as part of its Walmart+ loyalty program, available through this smartphone app.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think certain factors make you think that inventory robots can be successful at Sam’s Club in light of the experience at Walmart? What do you think is the most valuable use for front-of-house robots in the grocery store?
“The only question is why Walmart didn’t beta test Sam’s bots to begin with.”
“Just say no to robots and invest the money to hire more humans and train them better.”
“They can do better at Sam because a warehouse environment is more aligned with a large machine presence.”