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Walmart to launch local fulfillment with grocery-picking robots

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Yahoo Finance's Julia La Roche joins Kristin Myers to break down Walmart's new order-fulfilling robots.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's talk Walmart now. Walmart is deploying robots across its stores to do things like pick groceries. We have Yahoo Finance's Julia La Roche here to explain. Hey, Julia. So robots picking groceries. What's that all about?

JULIA LA ROCHE: Hey. I've actually seen this because they did a pilot in Salem, New Hampshire, which is their store just off of Interstate 93, not too far from Boston. And it was actually a partnership with Alert Innovation and their Alphabot. So let me just kind of explain what's going on at Walmart to contextualize here.

You are seeing online grocery pick up and delivery, even for some general merchandise, just explode because of the pandemic with people wanting to be socially distanced, but they also are really liking these digital options, this omnichannel experience. So you're seeing these services hit record highs. And so they're realizing, well, you need more capacity. How can you do that? You can only fulfill so many orders.

So they're looking at building out what is called a Local Fulfillment Center, an LFC. What is that? Well, it's a compact modular warehouse either built within or added to the store. And this warehouse stores things like your chilled, and frozen, and ambient items, and some other general merchandise, things-- like smaller things, like electronics, for example.

And I mentioned robots. They are these kind of, like, automated little carts. And they go through this high density storage retrieval system, and they're getting these ambient, cold, or frozen items, and they're bringing them to an associate who is packing them from a workstation. So these are for the online orders.

Meanwhile, while the robots are doing the work behind the scenes, a personal shopper, who's been trained, goes around and picks out the best produce, the best meat, seafood, and some of those bigger items. So it's really kind of working hand in hand. It's actually unlocked a lot of things. You can fill more orders. It creates more availability for customers to sign up for orders. They can do it within a matter of minutes.

And also synergies amongst stores in a certain area. They can use one of these fulfillment centers. So Walmart here starting with a couple dozen. We'll see how far they go.

KRISTIN MYERS: I've actually collided with one of those robots. Not a Walmart robot, but a different robot in a grocery store. They're a little bit weird when they're kind of zooming around the aisle.

JULIA LA ROCHE: This one you will not see. So these are like-- they look like little Tonka trucks-- this is [INAUDIBLE] I describe them. They're kind of cute, like these little baskets, and they have wheels, and they move through the system, and pick up the stuff. What you've probably seen is like maybe a floor cleaning one, or shelf scanning one, and sometimes they'll put googly eyes. I think I went to another grocery store that had one with the googly eyes. So those are kind of weird.

But this will be behind the scenes. So you won't see an associate going up and down the aisles. Let me get the crackers. Let me get the chips. Let me get the fruit here. They'll just do all the ambient, chilled, frozen stuff while the associate gets the fresh, and then they can do more orders.

KRISTIN MYERS: Well, that's good to know it was a floor cleaning robot. I didn't know what it was up to.

[CHUCKLES]

All right, Julia La Roche. Thank you so much for bringing us all of those details.