The midwestern grocery chain Schnuck Markets Inc. is expanding its use of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that roam store aisles taking inventory counts, saying the technology from Simbe Robotics will provide greater visibility into store conditions and generate deeper levels of business insights as the retailer prepares to adjust to the quickly-evolving landscape of a post-pandemic world.
Schnuck has already been using Simbe’s robots in many of its stores, first trialing the units in 2017 and installing them in 62 of its retail sites by 2020. With today’s move, the company will launch a multi-year, full-scale, roll-out that will bring the robots to all 111 Schnucks locations across Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
San Francisco-based Simbe provides a retail robot called Tally that traverses store aisles up to three times per day and autonomously captures on-shelf data including inventory position, price accuracy, and promotional execution for approximately 35,000 products per store with each trip.
According to Schnuck, the robots allow employees to prioritize their time on other, more fulfilling tasks, like supporting customers. “We are facing a ‘new normal’ in the grocery industry, and Tally has been instrumental to ensuring we continue to provide an exceptional store experience while rising to meet new operational challenges,” Dave Steck, Schnucks Vice President of IT Infrastructure and Application Development, said in a release. “By deploying Tally to all stores, we are fully operationalizing these insights into our supply chain and expanding our ability to leverage real-time data to make revenue impacting decisions.”
Despite Schnuck’s expansion, the adoption of robots in retail environments has not gone smoothly everywhere. In 2020, Walmart pulled the plug on its use of similar aisle-roaming, inventory-counting robots, saying that its own employees could get similar results as the products from fellow tech firm Bossa Nova Robotics Inc.