Walmart is Enlisting Robots to Help Fulfill Pickup & Delivery Orders

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Walmart local fulfillment center robot

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.

Walmart associate in fulfillment center

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 associate in fulfillment center

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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Comments 11

  1. SusanAlyssaTurner

    Our local Savemart has delivery robots. They are adorable. There must be 20-30 of the little guys. I see them all over this part of town. They are part of a trial they are doing. I hear they have them in a few other towns as well. We have ordered from them. The kids thought it was so much fun!

  2. Emily

    And to think I laughed at my mom yesterday when she said if they raise minimum wage they will just fire people and use more robots. Haha-not a political statement, we believe in a living wage and know it’s hard for people. I just thought it was funny to see this after her saying that yesterday.

  3. Liz Curtis

    There goes our jobs ! You’re not gonna get $15 an hour because they won’t need humans anymore. Maybe we should start shopping at the smaller business in our towns & give them a wake up call ! Just my opinion…. 😒

    • Stef81

      Exactly! I’m shopping local for everything I can these days. I won’t give another cent to Amazon or Target. I’m going to start putting my $$ where my mouth (and beliefs) are! And support the people who live in my community and their jobs!

  4. wifeandmomof3

    This is ridiculous. Robots to replace humans. Self check outs was the start now this…

  5. Marie

    My former company did this, replaced an entire warehouse’s worth of employees with robots and gave them no notice, then Amazon bought the rights to the robots and my company couldn’t get the software updates and they lost sooooooooooOOOOOO much money bc the robots were useless. Karma. I’m much better off now that I resigned and moved on a decade ago in my 20’s, but I’ll never forget the many crappy things they did while I was there.

  6. Ames

    The age of big tech and AI is quite terrifying… and if people aren’t alarmed yet at what Facebook and others can do- pay attention… Raising the minimum wage is going to be a tough pill to swallow when companies move overseas for cheaper labor and/or pass their cost increases down to us as consumers to foot the bill for them. Making more money is awesome, but having to spend more to live isn’t going to help ANYONE, regardless of a higher wage.

  7. Vince

    Of course this occurs when wages rise. Did anyone believe that you could vote yourself a raise to $15/hr. in minimum wage for jobs that do not require skill and not expect businesses to replace those jobs with computers or robots? And millennials don’t like dealing with real people, so the business is pleasing their youngest customers as well. Look at the self order kiosks in fast food restaurants – it doesn’t take great skill to do that job which is the reason that high school kids used to start in those positions. All actions have consequences.

    • Amy

      it literally has nothing to do with the president. companies have been testing these for years, even without thought of a higher wage for humans. we live in an age of technology, and sadly we will have to make small adaptions. it will be decades before these companies can replace actual employees. look at the pandemic. walmart was hiring the most.

    • chesca

      I sure do wish Every.Single.Thing. you just said wasn’t 100% accurate. Years ago big corporate jobs were the ones that well educated experienced people were vying for. Now at this time, there are going to be young kids, working moms and well college educated people all trying desperately to get the same job, being any job!! And the one who pathetically is going to get it is the Robot!! My Stop and Shop calls him “Marty” (the robot) i just think hes slow, and inevitabley in the way. And idk about other shoppers, but i find it just plain bizarre.

  8. Evie

    I always laugh at corporations who do not want to pay higher wages.
    Rents, food,automobiles,gas seem to be going up very quick!
    What happened to cost of living increases?
    The same companies always seem to find a million or 2 to pay executives who add 0 value.
    Too many elite sucking big bucks who also receive free medical care!
    Enjoy the robots. From what I see, most wander in stores collecting cell phone data!
    Greed ruined society!

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