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Walmart testing shelf-scanning robots

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Technology is being tried out in more than 50 stores

Walmart testing shelf-scanning robots
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is testing the use of robots that can move down the aisles of its stores, scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, missing shelf tags or other problems.

The company says the aim is not to reduce the number of employees in its stores, but to use automation to handle tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual, and free human associates to focus on serving customers and selling merchandise — jobs that most people prefer.

“If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told the Reuters news service in an interview.

King added that the robots are 50% more productive than human workers, able to scan shelves three times faster with considerably more accuracy. They can also do the job more frequently. Human associates typically only have time to check shelves twice a week or so.

Walmart says it has tested the technology in a small number of stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California. Based on the success of those initial tests, the company is expanding it to an additional 50 locations.

“As with anything we roll out to our stores, the feedback from associates and customers will guide us in how and where we use this technology in the future,” the company said.


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