Walmart battles online retail by adding more robots to its stores

The company will add thousands of robots while humans help customers.

Brick and mortar stores have been hit hard by online retailers like Amazon. Walmart (which has its own online presence) believes it has an answer to dwindling sales. Its solution, robots that take care of mundane jobs (like cleaning up spills) while its staff spends their time helping customers.

The retailer announced today that it will deploy 1,500 new “Auto-C” autonomous floor cleaners, 300 “Auto-S” shelf scanners and an additional 1,200 “FAST” unloaders to scan and sort items as they come off delivery trucks. Plus to streamline online orders, it’ll have 900 “Pickup Towers” so customers can order something on the company’s site and just pick up it up from a vending machine at their nearest Walmart.

Walmart Auto-S robot

The idea is that by pushing menial tasks to the robots, Walmart’s human employees can spend more time helping customers and preparing online orders for pickup. The company has been testing the robots for a few months now. “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual,” John Crecelius, Walmart’s senior vice president of central operations for Walmart said in a release.

Freeing up employees to help customers seems like a good idea. No one likes being the person that has to take care of the cleanup on aisle seven. But there’s also the concern that these mechanical assistants could ultimately replace some employees instead of the retailer moving them to a more customer-facing position. Hopefully, robot and human can work in harmony while you buy tube socks.

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