Inventory Robots Monitor Shelves at Schnuck Markets

AI-powered Tally has reduced the grocer’s out-of-stocks by as much as 30%.

August 31, 2021

Tally Robot at Schnucks

ST. LOUIS—Schnuck Markets, the Midwest grocer with 111 stores in five states, last week said it has deployed aisle-scanning robots dubbed Tally in all locations to monitor fresh and refrigerated products. Created by Simbe Robotics, the robots were initially used to record levels of dry goods on store shelves.

When it first piloted the AI technology in 2017, Schnuck Markets limited it to a handful of stores so management could compare the robots' skills with humans’ ability to track product levels and flag out-of-stocks. Schnucks found that Tally robots are 14 times as efficient in addressing out-of-stocks as manual scans. They have reduced out-of-stocks by 20% to 30% and have made it easier for store teams and third-party e-commerce partners to fulfill orders.

“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,” said Dave Steck, vice president of IT infrastructure and application development. “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. Tally has become an integral component of our stores, streamlining operations and ultimately creating a better store experience for our customers and teammates.”

Steck told Grocery Dive that human labor costs did not factor into the decision to expand the robot deployment chainwide. "When we went forward with the request to bring in more robots, we did not include labor savings, because our labor is busy as it is," he said. "Store operations [said] give me more robots, and they want Simbe to put arms on them so they can stock the shelves."

The project “demonstrates that robots that are thoughtfully deployed are a critically important tool for retailers to improve bottom lines, support teams, and maintain an exceptional shopping experience, both in stores and online,” said Brad Bogolea, founder and CEO, Simbe Robotics.

The newest iteration of Tally can scan a wider array of items and deal with more challenging lighting conditions than earlier versions, Bogolea told GroceryDive. The upgraded device, called Tally 3.0, also can record levels of items in freezers and coolers, as well as dry goods.

Don’t forget to register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on using technology to improve your stores and the consumer experience, including the sessions Data Security on October 5, Digitizing the Back Office and Increasing Foot Traffic with Your App on October 6 and Creating an Integrated Mobile Experience, The 2021 NACS/Conexxus Technology Roadmap, The Payment Blueprint of the Future and Winning Search Along the Digital Path to Purchase on October 7.