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Are you ready for the robot revolution?

Trying to innovate and automate your business is a difficult task; there are many different paths it can take. Do you reduce costs by replacing staff through automation?  Do you upgrade machinery to operate more efficiently? Do you purchase or create new tools to aid your employees in their day-to-day? Using technology is always at the forefront of innovation and automation, but which form do you use? Upgraded hardware (machinery, computers, sensors etc), off-the-shelf-software, custom developed software or robots?

Most people might think that robots are still very expensive or futuristic technology that is not available to them.  Technology is improving at such a rapid pace that robots are within reach. If you were operating a retail business how would you integrate robots within your business? Would you reduce costs by replacing staff? Or would you utilise robots to perform the low-level tasks allowing your employees to spend more time on high-value tasks?

Walmart chose the path that would serve its business the best. It could have tremendously cut costs by replacing staff, but it chose to serve the customer and its staff. After all, who wants to shop at a store with a skeleton crew and a terrible customer experience?

Walmart has chosen to utilise technology that allows it to innovate and keep its retail stores relevant in the age of eCommerce.  They have deployed robots to their stores to replace the mundane day-to-day tasks. They have rolled out two different robots within their US stores, an autonomous floor cleaner and an aisle scanning robot.

The floor cleaning robot is programmed to follow a route from different checkpoints within the store and can go about its business unaided. The aisle scanning robot uses LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to automatically map its route around the store and can stop or re-route if needed.  It takes photos and scans shelves to check product pricing, product arrangement based on planograms and product shelf availability, notifying staff of its findings.

Walmart has introduced robots to create more efficient processes and not to replace workers.  They see the multiple benefits that automation can bring. The use of robots promote a futuristic store to customers, it reduces operating costs, as well as empowering staff and allowing them to spend more time on high-value tasks such as customer experience. All of this allows Walmart to continually compete with eCommerce stores.

You don’t have to upgrade your business operations and introduce robots, but any automation that can be utilised can have a similar effect.  You can remove the mundane tasks your employees perform and allow them to spend more time with high-value tasks or have more face-time with customers to provide a better customer experience. Creating or finding the right technology that can automate a process can make all the difference for your staff and customers.  

Imagine a retail environment where stores have large queues at various times of the day e.g. lunch rush or Saturday afternoon’s busy periods. Do you introduce self-serve kiosks to help with the extra load that happens infrequently, or do you provide your staff with the technology and tools (such as mobile scanners and EFTPOS machines) to be able to approach customers in line and be able to check them out while they would have been waiting for a register, maintaining the valuable customer experience and relationship?  I know which solution I would prefer as a customer (who likes those self serve kiosks anyway? I have to get help from the person most of the time anyway).

There is no limit to how technology can help your business (without sacrificing customer satisfaction and experience) once you understand the problems that your business is facing. By diving into the problem and gaining clarity you can then choose the correct technology that would benefit your business the most.

Leave a comment below or send me a DM if you currently have a problem or a process that can be improved or automated, and we can work towards the right solution together.

Images from
https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2019/04/09/walmart-announces-new-workforce-addition-robots-robotics/#5f3271a016ff
https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/09/walmart-battles-online-retail-by-adding-more-robots-to-its-store/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferjohnson/2018/06/29/this-shelf-scanning-robot-could-be-coming-to-a-store-near-you/#60d236d473fb

2 thoughts on “Are you ready for the robot revolution?”

  • Dustin says:

    Great insights into how automation can integrate with and increase the productivity of workers without replacing them. I work with planogram systems and can vouch for the fact that, for all their features, they still work best alongside the human creativity of visual merchandisers.

  • Anthony Sapountzis says:

    Thanks Dustin, When technology is used as an enabler, people can do great things. Creativity is something I think we are very very far away from attaining or replicating in AI and technology systems. What planogram system do you work with? We have a retail marketing product and there could be some synergies.

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