Walmart Robotizes to Compete with Amazon

  • the company announced a plan to set up small local warehouses staffed with robots to handle surging online orders,
  • Both companies aim at cutting delivery time and costs by moving logistics closer to where customers reside.
  • “This whole process can take just a few minutes from the time the order is placed to the time it’s ready for a customer or delivery driver to collect,” wrote Tom Ward, head of customer product for Walmart US,

This week, Walmart announced a plan to set up small local warehouses staffed with robots to handle surging online orders, a direct challenge to Amazon’s strategy of installing these centers in locations close to the large urban centers where most of its customers reside.

Local fulfillment centers combine automated and human-led order picking for faster online order prep.

Walmart, the largest chain of hypermarkets in the US and the world at large is keen on a fight with Amazon, the largest online seller on the planet. Both companies aim at cutting delivery time and costs by moving logistics closer to where customers reside.

But Walmart’s extensive net work of physical stores, close to urban centers, is a competitive advantage over Amazon, which invested heavily in its distribution centers but has its large storage sheds in more remote locations.

Walmart opened the first of these types of centers in 2019, when it began to experiment with the concept, to which it added the Alphabots, robots with wheels that take goods from the shelves and complete orders from customers. Walmart shoppers can search for them simply by passing centers of withdrawal and typing one’s order number from a Smartphone, go out with the order in the trunk, or wait for it at home.

 “This whole process can take just a few minutes from the time the order is placed to the time it’s ready for a customer or delivery driver to collect,” wrote Tom Ward, head of customer product for Walmart US, in a blog post on Wednesday. 

To develop the Alphabots, Walmart partnered with Alert Innovation, a food handling robotics firm; Dematic, specialized in automation; and Fabric, a New York firm specializing in micro-order “satisfaction”.

Walmart to build local fulfillment centers at dozens of stores.

As per reports from inside sources, Walmart plans to open “dozens” of such centers with the first one set to be situated in Salem, New Hampshire, where it began testing) and then “many more will follow. The company will also, however continue to employ “humans” to handle fresh produce such as meat and vegetables.

Development of the Alphabots began in 2019 when Walmart partnered with Alert Innovation, a food handling robotics firm; Dematic, specialized in automation; and Fabric, a New York firm specializing in micro-order fulfillment.

These are all concepts that, in different ways, Amazon developed to become the largest online seller, a position that it reinforced in 2020, due to the pandemic and the long and massive population confinements. The growth of the company was such that in just 10 months, specified a document presented at the recent edition of the “World Economic Forum” in Davos, Jeff Bezos’ company hired 427,000 new employees.

New strategies.

During the pandemic, Walmart adjusted its online channel, whereby sales increased 79% in the third quarter of 2020. On the other hand, 

Amazon also boosted it’s business last year when it launched “Amazon Fresh,” a food products chain whose nine locations in the US function as distribution centers while competing with supermarkets and megastores like Walmart. Amazon has not yet used robots in those centers, but is a pioneer in the use of robots in its distribution centers.

Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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