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Walmart Expands Its Alphabot Automation System

Image via Walmart

While Amazon usually gets all the attention for its use of technology to make its operations flow smoothly, Walmart has shown that it isn't shy about investing in new technologies to remain competitive.

Walmart announced last January that its first Alphabot automation system was fully operational and working with associates at its Salem, New Hampshire location. Alphabot, which was designed exclusively for Walmart by startup Alert Innovation, is housed inside a 20,000-square-foot local fulfillment center that's connected to Walmart stores.

Alphabot uses autonomous carts to pull ambient, refrigerated and frozen items for online grocery orders. A Walmart associate then greets the Alphabot at a workstation where they check, bag and deliver the final order to customers through a drive-thru lane.

"This is going to be a transformative impact to Walmart's supply chain," Walmart U.S senior manager of pickup automation and digital operations Brian Roth said at the time. "Alphabot is what we think of as micro-fulfillment – an inventive merger of e-commerce and brick and mortar methods."

In a sign that the pilot has been a success, Walmart announced yesterday the local fulfillment center featuring Alphabot is being scaled to dozens more locations with "many more" to follow.

Walmart says it's impressed with not only the technology but the results as well. Walmart says the pilot has shown it gives associates more availability for customers, faster fulfillment of under one hour and greater efficiency as one fulfillment center can handle orders for multiple stores.

"It's no secret our customers love the speed and convenience of pickup and delivery. These local fulfillment centers help unlock our ability to expand even faster to meet their needs today, while also setting a new foundation to serve them in the future," Walmart said. "We're excited about this new chapter for our business and what it means for our customers."

Besides partner Alert Innovation, Walmart is also working with Dematic and Fabric on the initiative. The companies will continue to work together to test various orientations and add-ons that can be tailored to specific locations.

Walmart also said it will be testing automated pickup points where customers can pick up their orders by simply pulling up in their car, scanning a code and grabbing their order.

With a future that will be filled with automation and increased demands from customers for convenience, Walmart is busy at work making sure it can transition and not lose its spot as the world's largest company by revenue.

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