Walmart Ditches Robots in Favor of People

Human workers produced similar results for the same job. 

November 04, 2020

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—In the end, humans won—or at least, Walmart Inc. thinks its human workers have more value to the company than shelf-scanning robots. The retailer ended its five-year contract with Bossa Nova Robotics Inc., which supplied six-foot-tall inventory machines which scanned store shelves, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Walmart said goodbye to the robots because it discovered different—and sometimes easier—solutions. With more employees walking the aisles to collect online orders, Walmart wants to use them to keep a closer eye on inventory, along with other automation technology.

Also, Walmart U.S. chief executive John Furner had expressed apprehension about robot and customer interaction. Back in January, Walmart indicated the robots would eventually appear in about 1,000 U.S. locations, but when the partnership ended, only around 500 stores had Bossa Nova robots. The retailer doesn’t plan to stop using other robots, such as those that scrub floors.

“We learned a lot about how technology can assist associates, make jobs easier and provide a better customer experience,” a Walmart spokeswoman said. “We will continue testing new technologies and investing in our own processes and apps to best understand and track our inventory and help move products to our shelves as quickly as we can.”

Accurate inventory is essential to keep from having out-of-stock items, while also being able to meet the needs of online order fulfillment easier. Consumers continue to order online for both curbside pickup and delivery.

Retailers looking to incorporate new technologies into their businesses shouldn’t miss the following education sessions available at this year’s NACS Crack the Code Experience: “The NACS/Conexxus Technology Roadmap: 2020 Update,” “The EMV Extension: The Case for Acting Now and Thinking Ahead” and “Adapting to the COVID-19 Disruption: Is there a 'new normal'?” The even runs through December 4, 2020, and there’s still time to register. Do so today to access all of these sessions and many more!