Lowe's, BJ's, Ikea, and other retailers are using robots to clean up, track inventory, and police parking lots – taking the burden off human workers
Lowe's and BJ's Wholesale recently announced they'll be using AI robots in different capacities.
Autonomous robots have been increasingly popular in all industries recently, including in retail.
Walmart, Sam's Club, Ikea, and more have used robots in recent years.
The future is now for retail, as many stores nationwide are using robots to help with day-to-day tasks.
BJ's Wholesale Club recently announced that it will deploy robots, named "Tally," to roam its aisles to help track inventory.
The discount warehouse chain plans to use these robots, designed by robotics company Simbe, to check store shelves multiple times per day to ensure products are in-stock and in the appropriate sections.
Lowe's recently revealed that it's experimenting with using autonomous robots to patrol parking lots to enhance safety.
Lowe's began testing 400-pound Knightscope K5 robots in Philadelphia in February and plans to utilize them in Washington state, North Carolina, California, and Washington D.C.
The home-improvement chain is no stranger to robotics. Years earlier, it deployed the "LoweBot."
Back in 2016, Lowe's deployed the autonomous LoweBot to search for out-of-stock shelves and help stores replenish inventory. "Learnings from these early pilots have fueled further testing to unlock a future in which products are never out of stock," Lowe's Innovation Labs says on its website.
In Europe, Ikea has dispatched 100 autonomous drones to track inventory and "improve the wellbeing" of coworkers.
The Swedish furniture giant has placed the drones inside stores in Belgium. They go to work during off-hours to improve stock accuracy, the retailer said. "This solution supports a more ergonomic workplace for IKEA co-workers as they no longer need to manually confirm each pallet."
Lowe's, BJ's, and Ikea are only the latest of a large swathe of retailers to implement these types of technologies.
Walmart, for example, rolled out a robot called "Alphabot" to help with grocery picking and packing in a store in New Hampshire and plans to expand to other stores.
Automated grocery systems like Alphabot are estimated to pick and pack orders as much as 10 times faster than a human.
The company also tried aisle-roaming, inventory-scanning robots for about three years, but stopped using them in 2020.
Walmart stopped using the more than 6-foot tall robots during the height of the coronavirus pandemic after finding that humans could do the same work for a cheaper cost.
The company has also invested in "next generation" fulfillment centers that heavily rely on automation.
The new fulfillment centers employ over 4,000 workers, including "brand new tech-focused" employees "like control technicians, quality audit analysts and flow managers."
Meanwhile, regional grocery store chain Giant introduced "Marty," a googly-eyed robot, to stores in 2019.
Marty's primary purpose is to roam around the store autonomously and point out hazards for store staff to clean up.
Apparently even robot workers need to shake things up from time to time. Marty went on an adventure earlier this year, escaping into the parking lot of a Giant store in Pennsylvania.
A shopper spotted the robot roaming through the parking lot and posted a video of the brief excursion on YouTube.
7-Eleven is testing a 'WALL-E'-looking robot, appropriately titled Snack-E, to deliver Slurpees and other items.
Through Serve Robotics, 7-Eleven has been testing self-driving robots to deliver some of the convenience store chain's most iconic foods and snacks in the Los Angeles area for a few months.
Some robots can do double duty. In 2022, Sam's Club announced it had completed a chain-wide rollout of robotic floor scrubbers with 'inventory scan' towers.
The warehouse club rolled out the autonomous machines in partnership with Brain Corp, an artificial intelligence company.
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