A family-owned grocery store in America, Schnucks, has introduced robots to three of its stores. Tally the robot is being given a six-week trial, some of her capabilities include checking aisles for out of stock items three times a day and making sure products and labels correctly correspond.
Tally was created by San Francisco company Simbe, and is also being tested out in other stores across America.
Sources have claimed that Amazon are going to use technology in order to minimise their need for labour, creating automated supermarkets that would function with three human employees. While Amazon are facing rumours that they are planning to slash cashier jobs as part of an overall strategy to automate jobs and cut prices, Walmart have applied for a patent allowing them to introduce drones into their stores. The patent explains that the drones will be used to carry inventory items to the delivery areas.
But back to Tally. Dave Steck, the chain’s vice president of IT and infrastructure says “This is not to displace jobs. It still takes someone to order [merchandise], receive it from the warehouse and ultimately to stock it. There are no arms or legs on this robot.”
Simbe CEO Brad Bogolea agrees, saying that Tally’s purpose is to allow workers to focus on other tasks. He said “The goal of Tally is to create more of a feedback mechanism. Although most retailers have good supply chain intelligence, and point-of-sale data on what they’ve sold, what’s challenging for retailers is understanding the true state of merchandise on shelves. Everyone sees value in higher quality, more frequent information across the entire value chain.”
Steck says that each 30-pound robot is equipped with sensors to help it navigate the store’s layout and avoid bumping into customers’ carts. When it detects product areas that aren’t fully stocked, the data is shared with store management staff so the retailer can make changes.
Even more incredible, is the robot does take breaks. When Tally senses it’s low on power, it finds its way to a charging dock. And, the robot is designed to stay out of the way of customers. If it detects a congested area, it’ll return to the aisle when it’s less busy. If a shopper approaches the robot, it’s programmed to stop moving.
Despite these assurances, a lot of people seem to be less in awe of the advanced technology and more concerned about the jobs Tally will have the ability to replace…
Given that there are around 40,000 grocery stores in the U.S. employing roughly 3.5 million people, most of whom work at or near minimum wage, it’s not unjustified to be concerned about potential job loss.