- Wakerfern is extending an automated inventory tracking pilot program with technology company Focal Systems from four to 50 stores this fall, according to a company press release.
- Focal Systems provides Wakefern with shelf camera-based computer vision to capture images of store shelves, identify what’s out of stock and generate hourly data, which Wakefern said helps save time and improve operations.
- With 10 retail partners worldwide, Focal Systems said its technology allows employees to focus on customer service instead of inventory management.
The companies didn't say which Wakefern stores or banners would be using the technology, but the expansion from four to 50 indicates the grocery company is satisfied with its first test run. In a statement, Wakefern CIO Cheryl Williams said each out-of-stock detection is sent directly to Wakefern’s proprietary mobile application, which prioritizes out-of-stocks by department, aisle and in-stock availability.
This move aligns with Wakefern's goal to stay on the cutting-edge of technology and follows the company's announcement in July that its ShopRite banner would test a micro-fulfillment solution for online orders in Clifton, New Jersey with Takeoff Technologies.
Innovations focused on shelf management using machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming a distinct category, particularly in robot form. Giant Eagle is testing shelf-scanning robots from Tally in three markets, which roam the aisles multiple times per day to provide reports about what is out of stock every 30 minutes. Schnucks has Tally robots in 15 of its stores, and Ahold Delhaize has introduced Marty robots at 500 Stop & Shop and Giant/Martin's locations. Walmart is adding thousands of in-store robots to perform shelf audits and scrub store floors as well.
Tech companies are continuing to appeal to grocers with technology that can accomplish more in stores and for e-commerce fulfillment. At Groceryshop in Las Vegas, Righthand Robotics displayed its RightPick bot, which moves products into different bins using a suction tool and grabbing mechanism. Pensa Systems touted its inventory-tracking drone, claiming the technology can perform the same shelf-assessing tasks as a robot at a fraction of the cost.
Consumers are not as bullish about retail automation. A Future of Retail survey conclude that 95% of shoppers aren’t interested in speaking with a robot when they are shopping in-store or online. According to the survey, consumers at large seem more interested in non-tech improvements to retail, primarily when it comes to streamlining the shopping experience.