One of America’s largest retailers, Wal-Mart, has deployed roving robots in 50 stores across the US. The robots are designed to detect low inventory, price discrepancies, as well as incorrect labels. When it sees a qualifying event, the robot sends an alert to employees for resolution.
While the program has improved the efficiency of performing these tasks, "This has largely been about how we improve our performance and improve our service to our customers," John Crecelius, Wal-Mart’s VP of Innovation says. "People are just drawn to technology and what it does," he says. "Our associates naturally get drawn to: 'What is this going to provide, how can I use this in what I'm doing?'" The information collected would also feed into Wal-Mart’s online stock status and give shoppers a clear idea of what is available locally.
Employees have embraced the new technology and suggested other ideas on how to use the new data the robots collect, such as expediting restocking of items as they are delivered. The robots currently roam the aisles three times per day at about 2-3 mph, which is a near-human pace that makes the robot relatable to the other employees, who have named it and given it a name tag. "That's usually a good sign," Crecelius says. "It usually happens when they feel like something is helping them or making a meaningful difference."