US retail giant Walmart has stopped using mobile robots in its chain stores to inventory items. For years, the company has sought to automate these tasks using huge machines, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced people back, as paradoxical as it may sound.
Walmart has ended its partnership with the robotics company Bossa Nova Robotics Inc., which it has worked with for the past five years, gradually adding robots almost 2 meters high for inventory control. In recent years, Walmart has made robotization a major topic at press conferences and investor meetings in the hopes that technology and automation will help lower labor costs and increase sales. However, it turns out that humans can do the same and just as effectively, providing similar results.
During the pandemic, the company discovered an easier way to track items in stores. The fact is that buyers, due to fears about COVID-19, have become more likely to choose online delivery and pickup. Walmart now has more employees who have begun walking down the aisles, collecting online orders while noting shortages of certain items. Therefore, the company decided to employ these workers to track the quantity and location of products. In addition, the sources also said that Walmart executives are concerned about the reaction of some shoppers to the robots that constantly ply between the aisles in stores.
Walmart said in January that Bossa Nova robots will appear in about 1,000 of the 4,700 U.S. stores. The company called them human helpers, comparing them to the R2-D2 robots from Star Wars. Ultimately, the trading giant only equipped 500 stores with these machines, but continues to use other robots for simpler tasks.
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