Walmart is Enlisting Robots to Help Fulfill Pickup & Delivery Orders
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Walmart is going high-tech!
With more customers than ever taking advantage of Walmart’s pickup and delivery services, the retailer has announced plans to convert dozens of its retail stores into local fulfillment centers, which will operate with a helping hand from robots.
A local fulfillment center (LFC) is a compact, modular warehouse built within or adjacent to a store. In addition to fresh and frozen items grocery items, LFCs house thousands of other popular items, from consumables to electronics.
Instead of an associate walking the aisles to fulfill an order from the same shelves where customers are shopping, automated “alphabots” will retrieve the items from the fulfillment center and bring them to a workstation where the order can be assembled by an associate. A human associate will still handpick fresh items like produce, meat and seafood, and large general merchandise from the sales floor.
Once the order is collected, the system stores it until it’s ready for pickup. This whole process can take just a few minutes from the time the order is placed to the time it’s ready for a customer or delivery driver to collect.
Walmart began piloting its first local fulfillment center in Salem, New Hampshire, in late 2019. The results were successful and led to more availability for customers, faster fulfillment, and improved efficiency, with one LFC filling orders for many stores.
In some locations, LFCs will be added to already existing stores. In others, the fulfillment centers will be placed inside the existing store footprint. Select locations will also be getting automated pickup points, which will allow customers and delivery drivers to drive up, scan a code, grab their order, and go. There’s no word from the company yet on exactly how many LFCs are planned or where they’ll be located.
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