Retail giant Walmart Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is ending its contract with Bossa Nova Robotics as it gives up on robots that can scan shelves and updated inventory in favor of humans. This automation technology has been one of the most visible in recent times, with the retailer being among the largest adopters but it seems success for robotic automation is far from guaranteed.
Walmart ends the use of robots in tracking inventory in its stores
Walmart is now ending the robotic automation contract that saw robots scan shelves in around 500 of its stores after finding that humans could do the job. The retailer had started using the Bossa Nova Robots in 2017 and initially deployed them in 50 locations. The robots could perform routine work in the stores through machine vision to scan shelves and identify products that required restocking. At the beginning of this year, Bossa Nova stated that there were expansion plans to over 1,000 Walmart stores.
Interestingly it is not exactly clear whey the retailer is ending the partnership, but it appears like the global pandemic might have played a role. According to the Wall Street Journal, as more people started shopping online during the pandemic, it found more workers walking the aisle to collect online orders. It appears that humans could carry the same inventory checks as robots. Also, there are concerns that Walmart’s US CEO John Furner was becoming worried about what customers would think if they saw robots at the retailer’s stores.
Walmart open to trying new tech in tracking inventory
A Walmart spokesperson indicated that the company has worked with Bossa Nova Robotics for five years. Over that period, the company learned a lot about how technology could make job eases and enhance customer experience. The spokesperson said that this was one idea they tried in 500 of their stores as the company tries new ideas in stores. Walmart will continue testing new tech and investing in its process and apps to understand how to better track inventory.