Japan's FamilyMart Deploys Cleaning Robots at 300 C-Stores

The new machines also will carry products for sale as the country's workforce shrinks.

February 13, 2024

Japan's FamilyMart has begun using robots to clean floors as the country's second-largest convenience retailer faces a labor shortage, reported Nikkei Asia.

The robots will be rolled out at 300 company-operated stores nationwide by the end of February. According to the company, the move is a first for major convenience stores in Japan.

FamilyMart began introducing the robots at some stores in late January and will make them available to franchise locations for a monthly fee from April onward.

Each robot cleans the floor five times a day—a task that store staffers do three times a day for a total of about an hour. This will free up time for employees to do such tasks as stocking shelves and training.

"As the workforce decreases, we would like to coexist with robots in order to run stores with a small number of people," Tsuneo Murai, a managing executive officer at FamilyMart, told reporters.

Each robot also carries around items for sale and has a monitor that displays product information and ads.

It is equipped with 20 or so sensors and plays messages as it operates, to prevent collisions with customers and shelves.

Machine and robot technology continues to gain ground in the United States. In November, Sweetgreen announced it was preparing its proprietary, salad-making robot, and White Castle installed Flippy, its burger-making robot in about a third of its locations.

Last February, NACS Daily asked, “Are Robots the Solution to a Tight Labor Market.”