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Groceries Enlist Robots for Stocking, Deliveries

With the coronavirus’ multi-faceted threats to health and funds for people everywhere, grocery stores have tried to mediate the former by introducing more robots in stores.

By doing so, grocery stores can help reduce pressure on employees and also ensure that stores will be efficient, as people are still heavily mobbing the stores while the pandemic continues.

By utilizing robots, stores are eyeing ways to save money and improve operations in a chaotic time.

Washington D.C.-based Broad Branch Market has recently welcomed 44-pound, six-wheel, self-driving robots, all equipped with sensors and AI and able to make deliveries. The stores are closed to shoppers and are now solely relying on the robots to make deliveries.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, will utilize robots from Brain Corp., which specializes in offering floor-cleaning robots to retailers already. Walmart will use the robots in 1,860 of its 4,700 U.S. stores by the end of the year. It will also employ robots to take care of things like scanning shelf inventory and boxes as they come in off delivery trucks.

Walmart says the robots will perform those menial tasks and allow human employees to focus on other tasks such as selling items and helping customers with inquiries and other tasks.

But the heightened use of robots — expedited now, with the coronavirus — brings with it concerns of replacing low-wage jobs.

There are more than 15 million retail workers in America today, and many of them, including cashiers and clerks, could face the future risk of being replaced by robots. Automation, according to experts, can tend to spike during times of turmoil like the ongoing pandemic.

The Brookings Institution reported in March that any coronavirus-related impact to the economy is likely to bring about a higher spate of labor-replacing automation.

And in turn, Takeoff Technologies, which specializes in creating miniature warehouse facilities that help with automated deliveries and pickups, has seen a double-digit spike in order requests during the pandemic.


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