Select Arkansas Walmart stores in Sherwood, Searcy, and Pine Bluff are expected to receive robots Tuesday to aid associates in their work. It’s part of an expanded test that started in Pennsylvania, with the retail giant implementing robots in 50 of its locations. The robots will use automation to scan store shelves, help keep track of inventory levels, check prices that could be wrong, or where labels are missing.
"Customer habits and the shopping experiences are changing at an incredibly fast pace right now," says Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg. "As technology is changing the workplace, what we want to do is partner with our associates to make sure it empowers them to deliver for customers."
The robots are a continuation of Walmart implementing technology in its stores. In August, the company added pickup towers in about 20 of its locations, which a Business Insider report described as "giant self-service kiosks that retrieve customers' online orders in its stores." Walmart also expanded its online grocery pickup service this year to roughly 1,000 locations in an effort to compete with Amazon.
According to Lundberg, the robots focus on tasks that are manual, predictable, and repeatable which frees up associates to focus more on customer interactions. "Which they have always told us is the most exciting part about working in retail," he says.
Lundberg also says the robots are not meant to replace associates. "Customers want our people to use technology, to help them save money, to help them save time," he said. "We will always need great people in our stores working hard for our customers and we think this combination of people and technology is going to help make our stores more convenient, easier to shop, and create a better experience for both our associates and our customers."
According to Talk Business & Politics, Walmart eliminated around 7,000 jobs across 4,500 stores last year by installing cash handling devices and centralizing invoicing and store accounting roles. Robots , Lundberg says, will also show up in Rogers stores in January.
On whether or not the robots will be a permanent fixture in stores Lundberg says, "I guess we'll know more of that after we're done with the test."
Watch a video from Bossa Nova, the company who designed the robots, demonstrating how they work below.