US supermarket deploys aisle-roving robots

US supermarket chain Schnucks has deployed aisle-roving robots in three of its stores as it turns to technology to help beat the age-old out-of-stocks problem.

Tally, as the robot has been dubbed, is a joint innovation between Schnuck Markets and Simbe Robotics. The trial commenced today.

During a six-week pilot, Tally will be charged with scanning store aisles three times a day to help keep Schnucks stores fully in stock. Tally will also ensure that each product is placed correctly with its appropriate shelf tag.

Tally is an innovation designed to help provide Schnucks teammates with real-time information, making it easier to do their jobs and ultimately keep shelves full for customers, said Dave Steck, Schnucks VP of IT –infrastructure. The robot will do its daily storewide scans in the morning, midday and evening.

“The data that Tally collects will be sent to Simbe, which will do on-the-spot analysis and provide us with the information we can share with our vendor partners and teammates throughout our organisation to help us have the right products at the right time for our customers,” Steck said. “We’re starting Tally’s pilot with a focus on in-stock position, but we’re hopeful that Tally may open up a world of other possibilities with the shelf data it collects.”

In addition to bringing Tally to three stores, Schnucks and Simbe have engaged people at Washington University so students and faculty can benefit from pilot learnings. Some of the potential partnerships include startups/entrepreneurship, engineering/robotics and a data “hackathon” that would allow Washington University students to study the enormous amount of data collected by Tally and look for new ways of driving retail analytics.

Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets is a third-generation, family-owned grocery and pharmacy retailer with 100 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

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