Walmart’s secret weapon in its battle with Amazon for grocery supremacy? Robots.
Alphabot is being used at a 20,00-square-foot warehouse to fulfill grocery orders for a Walmart Supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire. According to Walmart, the system uses “autonomous carts to retrieve ambient, refrigerated, and frozen items ordered for online grocery” and delivers them to an associate (aka a human) who checks the order for accuracy.
Brian Roth, a senior manager in Walmart’s U.S. pickup automation and digital operations department, said in a press release that Alphabot helps streamlines the online grocery pickup and delivery process, which “will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of online grocery. And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.”
Yes, your Walmart grocery order will not be entirely put together by robots. Human associates will still pick up produce and other “fresh items.”
And Roth notes that as the Alphabot gets more use, the company will be able to use data to become even faster and make better “informed substitutions,” replacing products in an order when a brand isn’t available.
Bloomberg has a few more details. The Salem warehouse is utilizing 30 Alphabots and only operating at 20 percent capacity, which comes out to around 170 orders each day. There’s also a “scaled-down” Alphabot system operating at a warehouse in Arkansas (where Walmart’s corporate HQ is located) and the system will next be rolled out to stores in Mustang, Oklahoma and Burbank, California.
Of course, if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, you’ll note that this is simply the latest in a line of robots designed to do our grocery shopping for us and that’s pretty creepy.
It’s also the latest escalation in the ongoing Grocery Delivery Wars between Walmart and Amazon as the two mega-corporations battle to take control over our lives.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the farmer’s market.