Walmart Claps Back At Amazon With 20K sq ft Alphabot Warehouse

Hidden behind a store in southern New Hampshire, Walmart Inc.’s latest weapon in its food fight against Amazon.com Inc. is now fully operational.

The nation’s biggest grocer on Wednesday unveiled the Alphabot, an automated, 20,000-square-foot warehouse that could make its grocery pickup service faster and more efficient.

Alphabot’s robotic carts quickly retrieve items and deliver them to employees at a picking station, who then pack and deliver the order to customers’ cars in the parking lot. Retailers call the process micro-fulfillment, and some analysts say it’s the most promising technology to hit food retail in years.

Speed and efficiency are some of the problems Walmart and other companies struggle with when it comes to fulfillment. The current fulfillment model for online grocery orders is labor intensive, requiring dozens of employees to run around the store to gather everything on the customer’s list and more employees to pick up the order and take it to the customer’s vehicle.

Comfort is another issue. The human picking model creates more traffic for in-store shoppers, who have to avoid the multiple pickers rushing to fulfill online orders.

However, the Alphabot system solves these problems. For one, the warehouse is separate from the store. In addition, the robots, which are each around two feet wide, are the ones that run around the warehouse and gather the products. And they do this much faster.

As mentioned above, the robots can pick more than 800 products per hour. The number corresponds to the products picked per workstation, which is operated by a human.

By comparison, according to Alert Innovation, a human store worker can pick around 80 products from store shelves in an hour.


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