Walmart Abandons Inventory-tracking Robots

Walmart Inc. has dropped its plans to use roving robots to scan shelves and keep track of inventory. The world’s largest retailer, which had deployed robots in around 500 stores, ended its partnership with startup Bossa Nova Robotics Inc., which builds the robots. The Wall Street Journal reportedly said the retailer found human workers could get similar results.

Walmart had worked with Bossa Nova for five years for using robots to assist employees and to make their jobs easier, as part of its efforts to improve automation amid stiff competition with Amazon.

The company has been using shelf-scanning robots, equipped with cameras for identifying out-of-stock and misplaced products, in stores since 2017.

Walmart said in a statement, “This was one idea we tried in roughly 500 stores just as we are trying other ideas in additional stores.”

The company said it would continue to test other new technologies to track inventory and for faster movement of products to shelves. The retail giant continues to use autonomous floor scrubbers and other robots in its stores.

In view of an expected growth in online shopping in the upcoming holiday season, Walmart recently announced its plan to hire more than 20,000 seasonal associates in its eCommerce fulfillment centers across the country.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions, the company in August posted a 97 percent surge in its second-quarter U.S. eCommerce sales.

Rival Amazon also has deployed more than 200,000 robots in its stores to work alongside employees to pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and toys. The e-commerce giant acquired a robotics company in 2012 to drive efficiency in its fulfilment centres.

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