Walmart ‘hires’ an army of robots to handle cleaning and unboxing

US retailer Walmart is adding thousands of robots to its stores to handle cleaning tasks, allowing workers more time to help customers.

Walmart said by February 2019, it will have introduced the 920-pound autonomous floor scrubbers at 1,860 of its 4,700 US stores.

The robots will clean the floors and unload boxes in its stockrooms. The “smart assistants” can scan shelf inventory at 350 stores and bots will be placed at 1,700 stores to automatically scan boxes as delivery trucks drop them off and they are sorted onto conveyor belts.

“The overall trend we’re seeing is that automating certain tasks gives associates more time to do work they find fulfilling and to interact with our customers,” CEO Doug McMillon told CNN of the new technology last year.

Walmart robots

Photo source: Rick T. Wilking

Walmart is hoping that the bot army will increase sales and in-store efficiency. The retailer said it’s quite difficult to find workers to work overnight to receive the supplies from trucks.

“We’re seeing increases in sales and reductions in turnover in what had been a very difficult job to fill,” CEO McMillon told CNN.

Walmart goes high tech

Last year Walmart invested over US$2 billion to remodel stores around the country and improve online shopping services for its new in-store pickup feature. Walmart said on Tuesday that it would bring 16-foot-tall automated vending machines to 900 new stores this year to quickly fetch customers’ online orders.

“There is a labor shortage in retail. It will not be easy for Walmart to add labor to perform these functions. So a high level of automation is required,” said Kirthi Kalyanam, director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University to CNN.

Earlier this month the retailer announced a partnership with Google on the new Walmart Voice Order which allows shoppers to order groceries through Google Assistant.

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