Tally, whoa: St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets is expanding its use of Simbe Robotics' Tally inventory management robots into all 111 of the company's stores.
Schnucks started its trial of the 6-foot robots, which travel store aisles two or three times a day to scan shelves and capture real-time inventory data, in 2017. In 2018, that trial expanded to 18 stores, and last September, Schnucks set up Tally in 46 additional locations, bringing total deployment to more than half of Schnucks' stores. Soon, Tally robots will be up and running chainwide, including at the new, smaller-footprint Schnucks Fresh concept, which debuted in an 18,000-square-foot leased space in Jasper, Ind, this month.
Family-owned Schnucks touted in a news release Thursday that the coming chainwide deployment of the 'bots puts Schnucks as the first grocer to go all-in on robot-assisted inventory management in stores. Walmart, which had been experimenting with the use of shelf-scanning robots from Simbe competitor Bossa Nova Robotics, pulled the plug on that trial for unspecified reasons in November.
Schnucks' enthusiastic endorsement of the Tally technology comes from continued, meaningful improvements in inventory management in stores where the robots are in use, Schnucks VP of IT Infrastructure Dave Steck says. Those improvements include detection of 14 times more addressable out-of-stocks than manual scans, more-accurate and real-time inventory data being fed into Schnucks' automated replenishment system, and access for customers to real-time product location data via the Schnucks Rewards app.
"The ultimate goal is to make sure the customer is happy with their shopping experience," Steck said in an interview with WGB. The data that store associates get from Tally, he said, "is something that they can actually take action on"—if, for example, a customer is looking for a product that isn't on the shelf but is on an endcap or is in a promotional display elsewhere in the store. More-accurate inventory data ensures that associates aren't "chasing ghosts" in searching for an item that is supposedly in stock but is nowhere to be found—a time-consuming and frustrating process for associates and customers alike.
Beyond its product-pinpointing capabilities, Tally also helps ensure that price tags and promotional displays are accurate throughout the store, Schnucks noted. And identifying gaps between what associates see in store and what operations and supply-chain managers are tracking has real revenue-management implications, according to the company. "By incorporating Simbe’s solution into chainwide operations, Schnucks will gain even greater visibility into store conditions, with deeper levels of business insights as the retailer prepares to adjust to the quickly-evolving landscape of a post-pandemic world," Schnucks stated.
Schnucks', founded in 1939, has a store presence in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.