April 9, 2019
By Elizabeth Walker, Walmart Corporate Affairs
Every hero needs a sidekick, and some of the best have been automated. Think R2D2, Optimus Prime and Robot from Lost in Space. Just like Will Robinson and Luke Skywalker, having the right kind of support helps our associates succeed at their jobs.
Smart assistants have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly, so Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time an associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks like cleaning floors or checking inventory on a shelf. This gives associates more of an opportunity to do what they’re uniquely qualified for: serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.
The 2018 tests of these technologies have been well-received, but it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations. That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America. And we’re going big:
1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, aka “Auto-C”: After an associate preps the area, this machine can be programmed to travel throughout the open parts of the store, leaving behind a clean, polished floor. Auto-C provides a cleaner shopping experience for our customers, and it frees up our associates to serve them better.
300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
1,200 more FAST Unloaders: Working with the shelf scanner, the FAST Unloader automatically scans and sorts items unloaded from trucks based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly – ultimately giving our customers what they want, when they want it.
900 new Pickup Towers: A customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup. The associate loads the ordered item into the Pickup Tower. When a customer receives a notification via email that the item is available, they can use the Pickup Tower like a giant vending machine to retrieve their purchase.
That’s a lot of extra help for associates, and what’s especially cool is that two pieces of tech, the shelf scanners and the FAST Unloaders, share data back and forth to improve the whole process of getting products on the shelves.
What does this mean for the customer? It means a store that can function seamlessly and associates who are there when customers need them. It also means the items are on shelves where the customers expect in smarter stores all over the country.
Walmart has been piloting these different technologies for months now, and the response from associates has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual, “said John Crecelius, senior vice president of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. “It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”
These new technologies are helpful, but they’re more than simply convenient. The idea is that by leaning into the future, associates will be able to have more satisfying jobs as retail continues to change.
Walmart associates may not be saving the day in a fantasy world, but they are saving customers time and money in real life – and these smart sidekicks are one of the key tools helping them to succeed.