The Robotic Revolution in Grocery Retail

Posted by Geekplus on Mar 2, 2021 10:57:44 AM

The next time you are visiting your local grocery store, keep a lookout for robots – these autonomous solutions are increasingly deployed in supermarkets and are steadily transforming the landscape of grocery retail. What are the real-time imperatives of grocers and how are robots helping?

Inventory Management

With the sheer amount and variety of products to manage, grocers find it difficult to track the location and status of their inventory e.g. if the product is purchased or out of stock. To tackle this, supermarkets like Giant Eagle as testing robots, which combines machine vision and RFID readers, to help staff check for shelf irregularities as well as pricing and out-of-stock issues.

Easy, Contactless Pick-up of Groceries

As the global pandemic unfolded, the robotic revolution in the grocery industry is accelerated as grocers strived to tackle present-day concerns like social distancing and contactless purchase. In response, Woolsworth started its trial for a click-and-collect robotic locker which can automatically dispense online grocery orders without human intervention.

In order to uphold product freshness and comply with food safety regulations, the locker is temperature controlled, thus allowing customers to obtain fresh, frozen and dry grocery at one remote collection point. Since the demand for pickup has more than doubled in the year as local customers prioritized saving time and limiting their outings, this fast, easy and contactless solution helps to save their time and efforts whilst reducing congestion during popular collection periods.

Picking Efficiency

More importantly, the impetus to increase operational efficiency is more critical than ever as stores grapple with surging shoppers, orders and demands, particularly for online retail. British online grocer, Ocado, met with such an astronomical spike in demand that its website had to temporarily shut down from March 18th to March 21st. Operational efficiency, e.g. in terms of order picking, has thus become more critical than ever for grocers to avoid supply shocks and disruptions.

To ensure maximum picking efficiency and reduce the possibility of human errors, Amazon has adopted a Goods-to-Person picking system that utilizes robots for order fulfillment. This also helped to reduce workers’ mutual interaction and keep the risk of cross infection to a minimum. Overall, the productivity of the supply chain and swift last mile delivery for consumers, thereby customer satisfaction, are assured.

Geek+ Case Studies

Walmart, the world’s largest retail chain, operates various hypermarket chains and discount stores and faced a series of challenges in its warehouses. Large volumes were going in and out of the warehouse, which meant massive SKUs and high volatility. Moreover, Walmart was committed to its promise on same-day delivery and delivery accuracy of 99.99% but found both promises hard to fulfill due to the high error rates and labor costs associated with manual picking. To tackle this issue, Walmart worked with Geek+ to implement a pilot project in Walmart’s Shenzhen Distribution Centre. Geek+ picking robots were deployed, and this helped bring about a reduction in labor intensity, improved picking accuracy and 3.5 times increase in picking efficiency.

Another example is that of Yonghui Superstore, a Shanghai-listed company operating supermarket chains across China. The nature of the challenge that Yonghui Superstore faced was very similar to Walmart in terms of increasing volume demands, high labor costs and a significant rise of single item orders. Having adopted Geek+’s robotics solutions system, 43 P800 robots were deployed, and with a threefold increase in picking efficiency as well as an increased daily shipping processing capacity, Yonghui Superstore was able to meet the increased demand in the East China region. Moreover, it reduced on-site manual labor, allowing the company to gain cost-efficiency.

With the pandemic still unresolved, the business landscape remains volatile and uncertain. As an essential business, grocery stores should be compelled to fortify their business operations through investing in automation. Geek+ offers a comprehensive suite of robotic solutions, including a full picking system and business intelligence monitoring that improves the efficiency of in and outbound operations. By adopting our solutions and services, grocers are better equipped to cope with fluctuations in demand to not only secure short term business continuity, but long term business resilience as well.

Topics: Robotics, Grocery, Retail