- Hy-Vee is bringing robotic aisle-scanning technology to five of its grocery stores in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, the Midwestern grocery chain announced on Thursday.
- The devices, supplied by Simbe Robotics and known as Tally, traverse aisles autonomously, using high-resolution cameras to track items on shelves.
- Hy-Vee is the latest U.S. supermarket operator to adopt the robots, which are also in use at stores run by Save Mart, Schnuck Markets and Giant Eagle.
Simbe's robots can roll around a grocery store up to three times a day, recording data about items on shelves faster and more accurately than human workers. That ability enables them to help retailers cut down on the incidence of sold-out items by up to 30% and frees up store staff for other tasks, like working with customers, the press release notes.
In addition, Hy-Vee said the insights provided by the robots help retailers plan orders to avoid running out of products and make decisions about where to place items.
Hy-Vee will deploy the latest model of the robots, called Tally 3.0, which are equipped with upgraded sensors that can scan a broader selection of items and handle a wider range of shelving than its predecessor. While earlier Tally robots were designed to scan dry goods, the improved version can also recognize items in freezers and coolers, in part because it is better able to overcome challenges posed by obstacles like moisture on glass, said Brad Bogolea, Simbe co-founder and CEO.
Hy-Vee is currently operating the robots at stores in Ankeny, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska, and plans to begin using them at locations in Altoona, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; and Lee's Summit, Missouri, "in the coming weeks," the retailer said. The grocer, which has more than 280 stores in eight states, said it will evaluate the technology over the next several months before deciding whether to deploy it to additional locations.
"Feedback and engagement from our store personnel is critical to the project’s evaluation and success," a Hy-Vee spokesperson said.
Hy-Vee is adding the Tally robots to some of its stores as it also explores other ways to innovate with technology. The grocer recently opened a new supermarket in Grimes, Iowa, that features digital shelf tags, which the company first introduced in its Dollar Fresh valued-focused stores. The new location is also filled with video screens to market products and features QR codes linked with Hy-Vee's digital circular.