Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) on Tuesday announced the expansion of its in-store team of “smart assistants”. Robots will now take on the responsibility of repetitive and mundane tasks, allowing associates more time for face-to-face interaction with customers. The Company said its associate-support technologies were well received when tested in hundreds of locations in 2018.
The retailor said 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners will be introduced to free up employee time and ensure a spotless store. 300 locations will receive shelf scanners that will scan items and send information to associates in real time. The Company added that 1,200 FAST Unloaders will work together with shelf scanners to sort items unloaded from delivery trucks. An additional 900 stores will also get 16-foot-high towers that allow shoppers to pick up online orders free of human interaction.
“Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual,” said John Crecelius, senior vice president of Central Operations for Walmart. “It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”
The Company aims to control labor costs as it spends more to increase wages and offer new services like grocery delivery. According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart said the addition of a single machine can free up a few hours of work previously done by a human. It also believes increased bots will limit employee turnover, as overnight janitorial work is hard to find and maintain.