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August 7, 2018updated 08 Aug 2018 9:03am

Walmart to pilot robot to fill online grocery orders

Walmart has teamed up with startup Alert Innovation to introduce a pilot, using automation technology to help associates fill online grocery orders faster.

Walmart has teamed up with startup Alert Innovation to introduce a pilot, using automation technology to help associates fill online grocery orders faster.

Alphabot is a high-speed automation system that will automatically bring items from storage to associates who will then consolidate the items in the order.

For the pickup associates, this would translate into less time walking the store aisles in search of products and more time ensuring customers get the absolute best in fresh produce and meats.

The Alphabot system is being installed at one of its supercenters, in Salem, New Hampshire, US, as part of the store’s re-grand opening.

A 20,000ft² extension linked to the store accommodates the new system and will act as a grocery pickup point with drive-through lanes for customers.

Once completed, automated mobile carts will retrieve ordered items and then deliver them to associates at one of four pick stations.

The Walmart personal shoppers will then pick, gather and deliver orders to customers. Most of the grocery products available in-store will be delivered through this system, even though personal shoppers will still handpick fresh products.

“Our associates will have more time to focus on service and selling.”

The Alphabot system will become operational by the end of the year. Regular grocery pickup will commence at the supercenter store on 1 October. Grocery delivery will also be launched in the coming months.

In a blog post announcing the pilot, Walmart US executive vice president of central operations Mark Ibbotson said: “With the aid of Alphabot, our associates will have more time to focus on service and selling, the two things they often tell us are the most enjoyable part of the job, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.

“Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it. We have a lot to learn about this new technology, and we’re excited about the possibilities of how we can use it to make the future of shopping, and working, even better.”

The supercenter remodel will also include other technological innovations such as a Pickup Tower, where consumers can get their online orders by scanning a barcode on their smartphones; a FAST Unloader, a scanner and conveyor technology that can sort items automatically from daily replenishment trucks.