Walmart turns to robots to help solve out-of-stock issues

The world's largest retailer has had a well-documented struggle with empty shelves in its stores.

Video: Walmart is using aisle-roaming robots to keep its shelves stocked

Walmart is testing the use of aisle-roaming robots as a way to improve out-of-stock issues and price discrepancies in its stores.

The world's largest retailer has had a well-documented struggle with empty shelves in its stores nationwide. A few years ago, Walmart admitted that it was likely losing out on $3 billion in sales due to out-of-stocks.

With an infusion of automation, however, Walmart is hoping to keep more merchandise on its shelves by tasking robots with repeatable, predictable jobs, like scanning shelves for out-of-stocks, incorrect prices and mislabeling.

The nondescript robots include a base with an attached tower equipped with cameras that scan aisles for any of the above mentioned inconsistencies. When problems are found, the robots alert store employees, who then restock the shelves and fix errors.

Walmart says it's been testing the robots in a small number of stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California, and that it's now expanding the trial to an additional 50 locations. The retailer was quick to stress that the robots are not a blanket replacement for its human workforce.

"This combination of people and technology is helping make our stores more convenient and easier to shop, ensuring that products are available when our customers want them," the company said. "It's just another example of how we're using technology to save our associates and customers time."

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