There was a time when all you needed to make your grocery store stand out was a better selection of food. Those quaint days are gone as any food retailer worth its sel de mer now needs robots. Whether they are in the storeroom or out and about in the aisles, all the cool kids are getting robots: Albertsons, Kroger, Stop & Shop, and Walmart, to name a few.
Regional grocery chain Giant Eagle evidently got the robo-memo and will soon have its own automaton sailing up and down its rows of products. TribLive reports that Tally, a shelf-scanning robot, will be working at Giant Eagle checking inventory, identifying items put back in the wrong place and verifying price tags. Data collected by Tally can also provide insightful analytics about purchases, store presentation and inventory to store management. The robot, built by Simbe, has actually already been in use in pilot programs at a number of Giant Eagle locations in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Akron.
Same as just about every other grocery chain that adds robots to the roster, Giant Eagle insists that Tally won’t be taking any human jobs. Instead, the robot will assist humans by taking over tedious, time-consuming tasks (like going up and down the aisles, checking inventory).
Giant Eagle’s announcement comes just days after Walmart announced it was greatly expanding its robot program, adding shelf-scanning bots to 300 locations, as well as floor scrubbing robots to more than 1,000 stores. It also follows Ahold Delhaize’s news in January that it was deploying 500 “Marty” robots to scan for spills in its Giant Foods and Stop & Shop stores.
For those who keep track of this sort of thing, each of these robots is made by a different manufacturer. As noted earlier, Giant Eagles’ bot is made by Simbe, Walmart’s shelf-scanner is made by Bossa Nova and Ahold Delhaize ordered robots from Badger Technologies. In addition to keeping tabs on which grocers go robotic, we’ll also need to see which robots they are buying (and from whom) to see if there is a particular automated solution that is working better for retailers.
It should be noted, however, that the days of the shelf-scanning robot could be numbered. There are a number of companies building cashierless checkout systems that use hundreds of tiny cameras mounted to the ceiling which not only keep track of what people buy, but also give the store a continuous, real-time snapshot of shelf inventory. This sort of setup would be faster than waiting for a robot to make its rounds.
The fact that so many grocery stores are adding robots is just one of the reasons we created the ArticulATE food automation summit, happening next week in San Francisco. We’ll actually be talking food retail with Albertsons to see how robots play into its overall playbook. Tickets are just about gone, but you can still grab one today!