Walmart (WMT) is debuting a pilot grocery-picking robot program at one of its Supercenter stores, a move that could “revolutionize” the retailer’s booming online grocery business.
The company worked exclusively with Massachusetts-based Alert Innovation to deploy its Alphabot, a first-of-its-kind technology. The machine will make its first appearance at Walmart’s Supercenter location in Salem, New Hampshire — just off of Interstate 93.
“By assembling and delivering orders to associates, Alphabot is streamlining the order process, allowing associates to do their jobs with greater speed and efficiency,” Brian Roth, a senior manager of pickup automation and digital operations for Walmart U.S., said in a statement.
As Yahoo Finance first reported in 2018, Alphabot aims to make the job of the associate easier, by allowing workers to complete more orders faster than they otherwise would. It also frees up time for associates to carefully select fresh produce and meat — while the robots do other work behind the scenes.
Alphabot automates specific steps of the online grocery pickup process by using autonomous mobile carts to gather shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen items from a high-density storage system. Robotic carts will retrieve and deliver these items to store associates to fulfill online orders quickly.
This automated process occurs in the back of the store, in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse-like space, out of the view of customers.
“Ultimately, this will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of pickup grocery,” Roth added. “And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.”
The arrival of Alphabot is Walmart’s latest technological innovation. It recently expanded its unlimited delivery grocery membership offering “Delivery Unlimited” to 1,400 locations and debuted InHome Delivery in three U.S. cities covering a customer base of more than 1 million.
Elsewhere, Walmart plans to pilot driverless grocery delivery in Houston this year as it continues to test out next-generation technology.
To be sure, Alphabot technology is still in the early stages. According to Walmart, the pilot program in New Hampshire will be “studied, refined and perfected.” The retailer will then collect associate and customer feedback before a “broader” rollout will be assessed.
The world’s largest retailer and the biggest seller of groceries has invested heavily in its online grocery capability. Walmart offers online grocery pickup in 3,100 locations with delivery across 1,600 stores, and employs 50,000 personal shoppers for its online grocery business.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.