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Here come the retail robots: St. Louis-based grocer to use robots in stores

Tally roams store (Simbe Robotics Image)

Meet Tally: A slender robot that will be roaming aisles of select St. Louis Schnucks stores on July 31 to ensure products are never out of stock.

The 38-inch tall robot has two eyes, no arms, and can extend to scan tall shelves for out-of-stock items and ensure products are placed and priced correctly.

Each 30-pound robot has sensors to help it navigate the store and stay out of customer’s paths. The robot scans store prices three times a day and then returns to its charging dock.

Tally is being tested in three stores in a six-week pilot program and if successful, will expand to stores across the Midwest in hopes of improving customer satisfaction.

Tally scans information and sends it in real-time to Schnucks’ workers who restock and reorganize inventory, Dave Steck Schnucks Vice President of IT and Infrastructure, said in a statement.

Tally also sends information to the cloud where Simbe and Washington University students analyze data to improve retail inventory methods.

San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics said they designed Tally as the solution to global retailers who lose almost $450 billion per year due to out-of-stock items, empty shelves, and store inconsistencies.

“When it comes to the retail industry, shopper experience is everything. If a product is unavailable at the time the shopper wants to buy it, the retailer has missed an opportunity and disappointed their customer,” Brad Bogolea, CEO of Simbe Robotics Brad Bogolea said in a statement. “Tally helps retailers address these challenges by providing more precise and timely analysis of the state of in-store merchandise and freeing up staff to focus on customer service.”

Simbe rents out the robots to stores by the month, which is cheaper and more efficient than human labor. Bogolea told CNN Money that Tally can scan 15,000 items per hour, an audit job that would take an employee between 20 to 30 hours.

But this robot won’t replace employees. Schnuck Markets’ Steck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Tally can’t order merchandise or stock it– instead, Bogolea told CNN that it frees employees to spend their time serving customers instead of completing mundane and repetitive tasks.

Facing competition from Amazon, brick and mortar stores have harnessed technology to improve efficiency and customer service– their biggest advantage over online stores. Walmart installed nearly 4,700 cash counting machines that cut costs and time, displacing employees to serve customers and reduce theft.

Store automation will drastically change the future of work, but experts have written it is more likely to work alongside a robot than to be replaced by one.

Watch Tally in action here.


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