Article

Optimizing Inventory: Robots in the Grocery Store

By
Neha Ghai
April 26, 2023
Robots in the Grocery Store

At a Glance

  • By leveraging data-driven inventory solutions, businesses can enhance customer experiences.
  • 71% of grocers cite inventory call-outs as a significant hurdle.
  • Unlocking the full potential of inventory management solutions is critical to fuel sales.
  • Grocers Turn to AI-Equipped Robots as Next-Generation Inventory Management Solutions.

The hyper-competitive grocery industry is grappling with supply chain challenges and labor management, prompting grocers to explore new ways to optimize inventory, improve efficiency, and anticipate potential challenges. Data-driven inventory solutions are the pivot that creates positive consumer experiences. 

Competition is intense, and margins are narrow for brick-and-mortar stores. To succeed, grocers need a just-in-time inventory system that is efficiently stocked, catering to consumers preferences and ensuring timely replacement of products. This approach leads to higher customer satisfaction across all channels, including online and in-store competitors. Positive consumer experiences are essential for a grocer's revenue earnings, and optimized inventory is a critical asset in achieving this. Seventy-one percent of grocers report that citing real-time inventory call-outs is a significant hurdle to successful onsite inventory management. Grocery Doppio’s “Grocery AI: Exploring the Evolution of Inventory Management” dives deep into grocers’ inventory management challenges and reports that retailers must differentiate themselves through investment in technological advancements and innovative solutions. 

To help overcome inventory woes, savvy retailers are investing in robotics that integrates data science, real-time sensors, and cloud-based technology.

Automating Inventory Tracking 

According to Grocery Doppio’s “State of Digital Grocery Performance Scorecard,” 13% of grocers intend to spend non-budgeted funds exploring AI solutions in 2023. The advancements in computing power and cloud technologies, along with the growth in the digital economy, have paved the way for integrating robotics in retail. 

With the rising popularity of digital grocery, retailers must rethink their omnichannel strategies and inventory management capabilities to meet customers' changing online and offline preferences. For example, Grocery Doppio reports that 62.2% of digital sales at small grocers (<$1B) were home delivery, and delivery at large grocers (>$10B) accounted for 45.3% of digital sales, highlighting the need for next-gen management solutions capable of tracking inventory whenever, wherever it is sold and fulfilled. 

By unlocking the full potential of inventory management solutions, grocers can successfully process and accurately track a high volume of orders. To achieve this, it's essential to precisely understand customer demand and ensure that the products they seek are always available in-store. Deploying robots to optimize in-store inventory is a key tool to reaching this objective efficiently and effectively.

Identifying BlindSpots: Grocery Store Robots

Robots are increasingly used in various industries due to their ability to perform tasks with precision, speed, and efficiency. In the grocery industry, robots can optimize inventory management through shelf monitoring, barcode scanning, reducing waste, and identifying hazards. Employing robots by grocers can help offset labor costs and staffing shortages. 

Moreover, robots can be assigned to carry out labor-intensive inventory audits, freeing up staff to focus on other critical tasks, such as enhancing customer service. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, as staff can devote more attention to addressing customer needs and preferences. Grocery store robots can resolve challenges in monitoring stock levels, fulfilling deliveries, and identifying hazards. Below is a brief look at the advantages of employing grocery store robots.

Shelf-Monitoring

Consumers have embraced the convenience of digital grocery shopping, and savvy grocers have reimagined their operations and inventory management approach to capitalize on the change in consumer preferences. 

To fuel sales growth, grocers must optimize inventory and identify what products are in stock and can be sold. One competitive advantage grocers can gain is the ability to anticipate consumer demand and avoid inventory aberrations and stockouts, which can undermine customer loyalty. 

Robots can play a pivotal role in streamlining operational inventory processes, identifying sudden and unexpected shifts in inventory, and responding quickly without human intervention. These data-collecting robots can provide granular information on shelf products and customer buying patterns, enabling grocers to make better-informed decisions. 

By analyzing this data, grocers can identify long-term trends in consumer preferences. And by employing robots to manage shelf inventory, grocers can gain insights into which products are sufficiently stocked, which are running low, and which are out of stock, all of which can help them better understand consumer preferences and take appropriate action. 

Alerting Potential Risks 

Robots equipped with cameras and sensors can help detect any perils by scanning through grocery aisles for spillage and leakage, which could pose a risk to employees and customers. In addition to enhancing operational efficiency and improving customer experiences, robots can also monitor food storage areas for contamination or spoilage, preventing the sale of unsafe products. They can even perform routine tasks like cleaning floors and reporting issues like broken products or empty shelves to store managers, helping to prevent problems from escalating. Overall, robots offer an innovative and effective solution for hazard identification and management in grocery stores.

Delivering From Warehouse to Doorstep

Grocers use robots to carry out deliveries in two formats, within the warehouse and direct delivery to customers. In the warehouse, autonomous robots receive products in the receiving area, and employees unwrap the pallets and break down the shipping boxes, scanning and segregating items and inputting expiration information. The robots then choreograph themselves and provide the functions of storage and retrieval in the warehouse, optimizing inventory so  employees can fulfill customer orders.

Alternatively, small grocery delivery robots are capable of carrying small orders and equipped with GPS to navigate through public spaces like sidewalks and crosswalks, carrying groceries and other goods to customers' homes.

Conclusion

Robots in the grocery aisles have become pivotal to daily store operations. They leverage data across shopper touchpoints, including store aisles, to enhance logistics and enrich customer experiences.

Explore the revolutionary disruptors Maverick Grocery Robots leading the charge in automating inventory and innovating robots that can disrupt the grocery industry.