Sam’s Club Deploys Inventory Scanning Robots Chainwide

The automated machines scrub the floor while capturing product and pricing data.

October 25, 2022

BENTONVILLE, Ark. and SAN DIEGO, Ca.—Sam’s Club has completed a roll out of inventory scanning towers that have been added to its existing fleet of floor scrubbing robots. The club store had started adding the inventory towers to its robots in January, and now all locations have the technology added.

“Our initial goal at Sam’s Club was to convert time historically spent on scrubbers to more member-focused activities. Our autonomous scrubbers have exceeded this goal. In addition to increasing the consistency and frequency of floor cleaning, intelligent scrubbers have empowered associates with critical insights," said Todd Garner, vice president, in-club product management.

The rollout was made in partnership with AI company Brain Corp. Once installed on the scrubber, the cloud-connected Inventory Scan tower captures data as it moves autonomously around the store. The scrubbers then capture insights such as product localization, planogram compliance, product stock levels and verification of pricing accuracy for items that will be delivered to the store.

Each function negates the need for time-consuming and potentially inaccurate manual processes that can impact product availability, member experience or create waste caused by inaccurate ordering, according to Sam’s Club.

"The speed and efficiency of the deployment of this next generation retail technology with Sam’s Club is a testament to the strength of our team," said David Pinn, CEO at Brain Corp. "Through the use of Inventory Scan, Sam’s Clubs across the country are able to access a trove of critical inventory data in real time, which they can use to better inform decision making, run their clubs more efficiently and provide a better in-club experience for their members."

Robot labor is growing amid the country’s own labor shortage. Robot orders for workplaces increased 40% during the first quarter of 2022 compared with the first quarter of 2021, which is a record amount. The U.S. has been slower to embrace robotics than other industrialized countries.

Last month, Love’s Travel Stops opened its first Jamba by Blendid autonomous robotic kiosk at its Williams, California, store. The self-operating kiosk allows customers to customize their smoothie orders by adjusting ingredient quantities or adding boosts directly through the Blendid app. They can order on-site or schedule a preferred pickup time in advance via the mobile app.

In the restaurant industry, robots are automating the process of deep-frying potatoes, onion rings and other foods, which can reduce the amount of employees needed in the kitchen and speed up drive-thru times. Earlier this year, Panera Bread tested an automated coffee machine by Miso Robotics in two locations. The coffee system uses artificial intelligence to monitor coffee volume and temperature and it also houses data so Panera can analyze what kind of coffee its customers enjoy and when.

Chipotle also invested in Hyphen, a foodservice platform designed to help restaurant owners, operators and chefs move their businesses forward by automating kitchen operations. The company's first product, The Makeline, is an automated system that utilizes advanced robotics and a customized operating system to make and fulfill orders. The QSR also announced it’s piloting advanced technologies to enhance its employee and guest experience by streamlining operations and reducing friction.

With many industry observers stating the pandemic has triggered a fundamental “reset of retail,” new technologies including robotics, machine learning and AI also are being more rapidly deployed to enable operators to respond to the “new norm.” Read more in the NACS Magazine feature, “Robots Deliver.”