In 2019, Walmart began piloting its first local distribution center in Salem, which uses robots called the Alphabot to choose items from the shelves. Now the retail giant is turn more locations in automated distribution centers by converting part of the stores into warehouses or by adding a new section. Walmart stocks automated distribution centers with frequently purchased products, including consumables (such as fresh and frozen items) and electronics. They are meant to speed up the delivery and pickup of orders, and the Alphabot is a key part of making this possible.
The wheeled robot can quickly go anywhere in a warehouse to retrieve items from the shelves, then take them to a workstation for assembly. Human associates will then be free to choose which products are best left to non-robotic workers, such as meat, vegetables, and fruit. In an article announcing the initiative on the company’s website, Senior Vice President of Customer Product Tom Ward said the process could “take a few minutes from when the order is placed to when it is ready for a customer or a delivery man to pick up. Being able to process orders faster means Walmart can accommodate more customers, which could help the company in its attempt to catch up with Amazon.