First, Walmart is mainstreaming technology to enhance productivity in its stores by shifting its employees from repetitive tasks to new jobs. Automating specific tasks gives employees time to work on areas which are fulfilling and at the same time work on tasks which they enjoy. Robots are a source of the company’s greater efficiency, reduced employee turnover, and increased sales. Tests that have been carried out in markets and many stores have proven that robots are effective in repetitive tasks, sometimes better than humans.
Walmart is introducing self-driving floor cleaners to more than 1500 stores. Reportedly, floor scrubbing could take up to three hours of a human worker each. However, the addition of automated self-driving floor cleaner robots is expected to cut the time it takes to scrub or clean a floor and at the same time reduce the cost of operations. These autonomous scrubbers which are armed with AI and computer vision will release the employees to work in other areas around Walmart such as serving customers.
Automatic shelf-scanners which have been in testing since 2017 are introduced to scan prices and check the inventory. They sit in their charging stations waiting for tasks such as checking the inventory levels, finding misplaced items or locating incorrect prices when they are assigned by a Walmart employee. They are also deployed to locate incorrect labeling of items in shelves. After scanning, it will relay a message which includes information on whether the item is stored on the shelf, if the product is in a storeroom or whether the product is not on a place or level where the customer can see. Such information makes sales easier and more accurate.
Walmart has also invested in bots which will help in delivery by automatically scanning boxes as they are offloaded from delivery trucks. These bots also help in sorting them by department onto the conveyors. The smart assistants will significantly reduce the time that employees spend on repetitive tasks, and manual and predictable functions in the stores. This will give time for the employees to focus on selling merchandise to Walmart shoppers and provide other customer support services. Without these assistants, it takes between nine and ten Walmart employees two hours to unload between 2500 and 3000 boxes off a truck. However, the presence of a Fast Unloader will see this job done by half as many people. Therefore, one unloader adds 10 more employee hours to the company meaning that it reduces the cost of operations. This will enhance efficiency in stocking because the automated pickup towers allow online shoppers to retrieve their merchandise orders easily.
It’s clear that Walmart is focused on ensuring that the services it offers are not only cheap but also accurate and customer-centered. With the adoption of robots, the company is continuing to be a trendsetter in the retail industry not only in the US but worldwide. Although there are challenges with regard to using robots, it has proven to be a cheaper and efficient option.