Slashing its prices with drone technology
THE FACT : Walmart uses drone technology to decrease prices
Shelving the correct product in the proper place is always a big challenge for retailers, especially when it comes to large-scale retail outlets. For example, retailers often encounter “false” out-of-stocks, that is, the item is nowhere to be found, at least not by the customer. It is simply misplaced.
In general, by hand, the scanning process would take an employee about a month to complete in a Walmart store. To improve the efficiency and lower prices, Walmart planned to deploy drones in its stores, as it just takes a day or less to accomplish the same task.
Before scaling the use of these drones across its network of roughly 190 U.S. distribution centers, Walmart is currently conducting the test in its 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas. The drones, which can operate on autopilot, fly through the aisles snapping 30 images a second, and delivering real-time data to employees in back office. The real-time imaging on the screen will tell whether the correct product is shelved in the proper place: when a green box pops up, it signals the all-clear for the shelf in question; a blue box indicates the product is missing, and a red icon means there was an error while stocking the center’s shelves.
INTERPRETATION : Human or Machine ?
While most of business owners consider “Shelf-facing” of critical importance in the supermarket, “small things” like shelf verification also make a difference. Letting customers find easily right product on the right place, with right label gives them a differentiated shopping experience.
For supermarkets owners like Walmart, deploying automated tools to replace human labour in large-scale place saves both time and energy. In addition, as machines can work constantly, employees in the back office will get real-time data and react in time if something goes wrong. And data generated by the drones can be used afterwards to help in decision-taking.
Another advantage of machines deployed in the workplace is their versatility. According to Shekar Natarajan, a Wal-Mart vice president working on the Walmart project, the technology could also have additional uses across the business, from everything to crop monitoring to package delivery.