Multi-Purpose Robots March into Grocery

Photograph: Shutterstock

2019 is shaping up to be the year of the grocery retail robot. Increasingly, self-contained rolling assistants are roaming store aisles while capturing and sharing valuable data to boost efficiencies, financial performance and customer satisfaction.

As large-scale trials and deployments at grocery chains accelerate, it’s clear that multipurpose robots are primed to transform store operations by empowering grocers with better insights into everything from store inventory to spills and other potential hazards.

According to IHL Group, global retailers lose nearly $450 billion in revenue annually as a result of empty shelves and other in-store inventory inconsistencies. As most grocers have discovered, fixing mismarked, misplaced or missing inventory using conventional means—mostly manual—is time-consuming and costly. Brute-force alone is insufficient when it comes to addressing out-of-stock, planogram compliance and price integrity issues.

Luckily, autonomous robots roving through store aisles can automate the entire process while continuously scanning shelves to capture data about pricing, planograms and inventory levels. The ability to gain real-time visibility into what’s happening throughout the store is essential to acting quickly and decisively on multiple fronts. For instance, customer satisfaction is closely aligned with inventory, so generating replenishment lists and integrating out-of-stock alerts with supply chain management systems is essential to improving customer experiences.

The opportunity to correlate point-of-sale (POS) data to specific store locations and displays is crucial to understanding the performance of specialty and seasonal items. Actionable data and analytics that provide a “shelf’s-eye view,” as well as an overarching corporate perspective, equip grocers with valuable insights, which previously have been unavailable or unattainable due to the fragmented nature of typical point solutions in the grocery sector.

With grocery robots, however, all information collected at the store level can be compiled and then shared as custom dashboards or reports to provide far-reaching insight into store operations. Predictive analytics performed on store performance data collected from multiple locations can offer more accurate and meaningful business insights into individual, regional, seasonal and corporate performance.

In addition to scanning shelves and reporting on POS performance, fully autonomous robots armed with navigation systems, cameras, sensors and software constantly look for potential hazards. Real-time alerts on spills, obstacles, debris or anything that may impose a potential risk ensure rapid resolution while bolstering safety for both customers and employees.

The opportunity to automate hazard detection and reporting also can improve audit and compliance operations while elevating overall risk management. The result: Safer stores and reduced insurance costs.

As multi-purpose robots become more familiar fixtures in grocery store environments, they’ll likely be given even more responsibilities to leverage their data-gathering strengths to deliver ever-increasing value. In particular, robots with read access to all pertinent in-store data can be aligned with other essential store systems, such as lighting, refrigeration and security, to streamline operations for connected stores of the future.

This post is sponsored by Badger Technologies