Walmart associates in the company’s first high-tech Market Fulfillment Center are getting a helping hand from a new coworker.
An automated bot, dubbed Alphabot, is complementing and even creating new jobs, not eliminating them, according to Nick Berkeley, senior vice president of operations for Walmart’s southeast region.
The company is leveraging a proprietary storage and retrieval system in its Arkansas-based Market Fulfillment Center that helps Walmart associates fill online grocery pickup and delivery orders faster than before.
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The company’s first Market Fulfillment Center, located in Bentonville, is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to use its stores as fulfillment centers so that it can make the shopping experience more efficient for employees and customers.
The automated bot, dubbed Alphabot, will retrieve items from the fulfillment center’s storage system and bring them to an associate at a picking station. The system holds inventory separate from the store floor.
The picking station will then use “pick to light” technology, using lights to guide the associate to which item to pick and which bag to place it in.
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“It’s easier, simpler work that also creates more jobs and more opportunities for our associates,” Berkeley said during a tour of the company’s fulfillment center Thursday.
As capacity grows, the company will have to hire more personal shoppers and fill more leadership positions in order “manage these elements,” he added.
“We are not just replenishing the shelves on the sales floor anymore,” he said. “We are now replenishing this [storage system].”
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The system, which launched last month, has already added additional overnight shifts in the store.
“You’ve got your traditional overnight stockers on the sales floor. You’ve now got an overnight stocking team here that didn’t exist before we put this in,” Berkeley said.
Berkeley noted that the fulfillment center is already enhancing the customer experience.
The system helps to eliminate the number of personal shoppers with trolleys on the store floor, effectively reducing congestion for customers, according to Berkeley.
It also plans to significantly increase the number of orders it can fill, so there will be even lower substitution rates and faster fulfillment times.
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