A Walmart Supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire, now has Alphabot, a new technology aimed at revolutionizing the online grocery pickup and delivery process for employees and customers.
Developed exclusively for Walmart by startup Alert Innovation, Alphabot helps to enable quicker, more efficient order picking. The system operates inside a 20,000-s.f. warehouse-style space, using autonomous carts to retrieve ambient, refrigerated and frozen items ordered for online grocery. After it retrieves them, Alphabot delivers the products to a workstation, where a Walmart employee checks, bags and delivers the final order.
As the pickup and delivery process works today, associates select items from the sales floor for customers, package them and then deliver them. While associates will continue to pick produce and other fresh items by hand, Alphabot will help make the retrieval process for all other items easier and faster.
Brian Roth is a senior manager of pickup automation and digital operations for Walmart U.S. He believes Alphabot could fundamentally change Walmart’s online grocery operations.
“By assembling and delivering orders to associates, Alphabot is streamlining the order process, allowing associates to do their jobs with greater speed and efficiency,” Roth said. “Ultimately, this will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of online grocery. And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks.”
As the grocery pickup system operates now, there are a few extra steps involved for employees. But Roth believes the technology will change that.
“This is going to be a transformative impact to Walmart’s supply chain,” Roth said. “Alphabot is what we think of as micro-fulfillment—an inventive merger of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar methods.”
The benefits go beyond employees who work with Alphabot every day, extending to shoppers in more ways than one. By increasing fulfillment speeds, this technology can create more convenience for customers, allowing them to place orders closer to pickup time, and reducing wait time when picking up an order.
The system’s fully autonomous bots operate on three axes of motion, constituting a more flexible system than is typically found in traditional fulfillment centers and warehouses. Because the carts that carry items move both horizontally and vertically without any lifts or conveyors, there are fewer space constraints to consider, which should make adoption of the system easier across stores.