Walmart drops inventory-tracking robots after humans prove just as effective
Machines don't always do a better job than peopleBy Rob Thubron
What just happened? Are you concerned about automation replacing human workers? Then you might appreciate this: Walmart has stopped using inventory-tracking robots in its stores because they aren't performing any better than regular employees.
The six-foot autonomous robots have been used in around 500 Walmart stores since 2017 as a way of ensuring shelves are kept stocked, but the retail giant says it has ended its partnership with Bossa Nova Robotics, which makes the machines.
"This was one idea we tried in roughly 500 stores just as we are trying other ideas in additional stores," Walmart said in a statement.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the robots were given the boot because the company discovered "humans can help get similar results." The pandemic saw an increase in people doing grocery shopping online, which meant more workers picking and packing on the aisles. This made it easier to monitor what items were on the shelves, allowing staff to replace goods as and when required.
The WSJ writes that Bossa Nova Robotics laid off around half of its employees when Walmart ended the contract. The company is now focusing on new software initiatives.
Walmart reported $137.7 billion revenue last quarter, helped by a 97 percent increase across its e-commerce businesses during the pandemic.
Walmart isn't giving up on robots altogether; stores will still use the autonomous robot janitors that it began testing two years ago.
Image credit: Lawrence Glass