Local ShoppingBJ’s to roll out inventory robots chainwide

BJ’s to roll out inventory robots chainwide

Dive Brief:

  • BJ’s Wholesale Club plans to deploy autonomous aisle-scanning vehicles from Simbe Robotics to all of the club retailer’s locations, the companies announced in a press release Tuesday.
  • The robots, known as “Tally,” use computer vision-driven cameras to collect images of items on store shelves and use the data they record to track stock levels, ensure products are in the correct location and monitor prices.
  • BJ’s is bringing robotic inventory technology to its stores as the company looks to make other improvements to its locations and expand to regions where it does not yet have a presence.

Dive Insight:

BJ’s goal in bringing Simbe robots to its stores centers around the company’s desire to use data to get a clear sense of operating conditions as it looks to become more efficient and serve customers better, according to the announcement.

The robots, which can traverse an entire store several times per day, feed information to cloud-based servers that use artificial intelligence to guide store employees in stocking shelves, locating products and handle other tasks. “Ultimately, Tally allows team members to be more efficient and re-focus more of their time towards providing exceptional customer service,” according to the announcement.

BJ’s follows supermarket chains including Schnuck Markets, Hy-Vee and The Save Mart Companies in electing to use Simbe’s technology in its stores.

Meanwhile in October, BJ’s rival Sam’s Club announced that it had finished installing automated inventory-scanning equipment on existing robotic floor-scrubbing machines in all the Walmart subsidiary’s approximately 600 locations. The scanning devices depend on artificial intelligence software from Brain Corp to run the scanning equipment, which sits atop robots provided by Tennant Company, an industrial cleaning equipment supplier.

In addition to deploying technology to improve its ability to keep tabs on products on store shelves, BJ’s plans to upgrade its locations so they can better serve digital customers, President and CEO Bob Eddy said last week during the retailer’s fourth-quarter earnings call. Eddy noted that while curbside pickup now accounts for half of the company’s online sales, many of its stores were not designed with e-commerce in mind, adding that the company installed facilities to enable pickup at its stores in only a couple of weeks.

“We never built the infrastructure inside these clubs to allow them to efficiently store and refrigerate products and make sure that they’re getting out to the parking lot in an efficient manner,” Eddy said. “And so some of our clubs will look kind of haphazard that way. They’ve outgrown the initial shot of capital that we put in there.”

BJ’s, which currently operates 237 stores, has also recently been concentrating on expanding its retail footprint. The company announced last week that it intends to add five new stores to its fleet, one of which will be in Madison, Alabama, and represent the retailer’s first location in that state. BJ’s also said it intends to open stores in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee; Johnson City, New York; Lewis Center, Ohio; and North Jacksonville, Florida.

Last month BJ’s said it plans to expand to Tennessee later in 2023, where it intends to debut a store in a suburb of the state’s capital and largest city, Nashville.

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