How Autonomous Inventory Robots Help Retailers

These robots can save retailers time and money.

April 25, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—With the labor market cooling, many large retailers are turning to automation to solve some of their labor needs as well as provide a better way of keeping track of inventory, CNBC reports. Companies like Brain Corp. are rolling out robots designed to verify price signs and note out-of-stock items.

Missed sales from out-of-stock items or empty shelves cost U.S. retailers $82 billion in 2021, according to NielsenIQ. “Retailers are spending a lot of money wanting to know what’s coming into their stores through their inventory systems,” said Jarad Cannon, chief technology officer for Brian Corp. “They know quite a bit about what they’re selling and what’s leaving their stores, but in their stores on a daily basis, they don’t have a very good model of what’s happening on their shelves.”

Inventory robots have the advantage of collecting more data about what customers do and don’t want, along with registering what’s in stock and on the shelves. “These robots are going to help brick-and-mortar to evolve and capture the new market where you can order online, pick up in store,” said John Black, senior vice president of strategy for Brain Corp.

Some convenience stores are using automation for repetitive and mundane tasks. For example, Kum & Go has deployed automated floor scrubbers. 7-Eleven has tested delivery robots in Los Angeles.

Increasingly, companies are tapping warehouse robots as well. Walmart recently announced it will begin using more giant automated claws and rolling robots rather than people in its warehouses, while Kroger also employs robots in some of its warehouses.