Dive Brief:

  • Sam’s Club on Thursday announced it has finalized its chainwide deployment of Inventory Scan automated robots, according to a press release.
  • The rollout, which was originally announced in late January, involved adding new inventory-scanning technology to the nearly 600 autonomous floor scrubbing robots already roaming around Sam’s Club’s fleet of roughly 600 stores. These now dual-functioning robots can collect product availability and pricing data while cleaning the floors.
  • The wholesaler’s efforts come at a time when its parent company, Walmart, is advancing further into the automation and artificial intelligence technology space.

Dive Insight:

The new Inventory Scan tower is meant to deliver data such as price verification and accuracy, planogram compliance, product localization and stock levels back to club managers, Sam’s Club noted.

“These scrubbers help associates ensure products are out for sale, priced correctly and findable, ultimately making it easier to directly engage with our members,” Todd Garner, vice president of in-club product management at Sam’s Club, said in the press release.

Both the original floor scrubbing robots, which are made by industrial cleaning equipment supplier Tennant Company, and now the inventory scanner atop it are powered by BrainOS, Brain Corp’s AI operating system, according to the announcement.

In recent years, grocers have focused on finding tech solutions that can help free up associates from mundane inventory tracking and provide more efficient processes to closely follow pricing and out-of-stocks. Some retailers such as Schnuck Markets and Hy-Vee have turned to robots to roam their aisles for inventory data.

Others have sought out different solutions to collect shelf-level data. Twin Cities grocery chain Lunds & Byerlys announced this year it would use handheld scanners outfitted with software from Pensa Systems, which the tech firm says is less expensive than aisle-scanning robots and cameras. In 2020, Walmart’s contract ended with Bossa Nova Robotics, stopping the retailer’s plans to use the roaming robots to keep track of shelf inventory.

Walmart is also implementing more AI technology. The retail giant announced in June plans to build four high-tech fulfillment centers, complete with automation, machine learning and robotics, over the next three years.

In October, Walmart also announced its acquisition of e-grocery automation firm Alert Innovation with plans to use its Alphabot system to “store, retrieve and dispense orders by moving horizontally, laterally and vertically across three temperature zones without any lifts or conveyors.”

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed reporting.


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