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Schnucks to expand use of shelf-scanning robots

Schnucks to expand use of shelf-scanning robots

Successful pilot yields added insight at shelf and customer levels

After more than a yearlong pilot, Schnuck Markets Inc. plans to deploy shelf-scanning robots to at least 15 stores.

St. Louis-based Schnucks began testing Simbe Robotics’ Tally autonomous shelf-scanning robot at three stores in July 2017 to capture deeper, real-time insights into on-shelf operations. Based on the pilot’s success, the supermarket chain aims to roll out Tally robots this month or next at stores in St. Louis (Sierra Vista Plaza), Florissant and Twin Oaks, Mo., and Granite City, Ill., and at additional locations later on.

Tally robots currently are being used at Schnucks stores in Ballwin, Chesterfield, Des Peres and Webster Groves, Mo. In those locations, the robots travel the entire floor three times daily and scan roughly 35,000 products each time. With the deployment of the technology to at least 15 stores, more than 1.5 million products will be scanned in an average day, providing Schnucks with more accurate, frequent and comprehensive insights into product flow and in-store operations, the companies said.

In addition to gathering on-shelf intelligence, Tally improves how products are organized and stocked on shelves — ensuring that items are placed where customers expect them to be, according to Simbe and Schnucks. The captured data and resulting analytic reports also yield insights on shelf and inventory optimization to the retailer’s brand and delivery partners, the companies added.

“Tally has been instrumental in boosting the way our shelves are managed and how our stores function. As a result of working with Simbe, we’ve experienced a phenomenon we call ‘the Tally effect,’ an immediate improvement in in-store operations and increased teammate productivity,” Dave Steck, vice president of IT infrastructure and application development at Schnucks, said in a statement. “Currently, teammates are spending several hours a week completing tasks like inventory scanning and price tag auditing. Since we implemented Tally, the robot now completes those mundane tasks, allowing teammates to focus on customer service.”

San Francisco-based Simbe noted that Tally uses a suite of sensors to safely navigate around aisles and shoppers and, because the robot is fully autonomous, it returns to its charging dock on its own. As a result, Schnucks customers and staff can shop and work alongside the robot with the reassurance that products are placed and priced accurately.

“We have confidence that, with Simbe, our stores will run more smoothly and customers will continue to have exceptional and modern shopping experiences,” Steck added.

The robots work in tandem with Simbe’s cloud-powered software platform, which leverages computer vision and machine learning technology to give retailers a detailed picture of the state of their stores. Simbe said that, for Schnucks, its solution can be used to conduct autonomous product audits; provide timely alerts for out-of-stock, low-stock and misplaced items; expedite price tag updates for price adjustments and promotions; provide continuous in-store performance insights for manufacturer and service partners; and sharpen product placement for a more organized shopping flow and efficient planogram.

“Schnucks is deeply committed to exceptional customer service and has taken a tech-forward approach to improving in-store operations, which ultimately delivers a better shopping experience,” said Simbe CEO Brad Bogolea. “Tally has provided Schnucks with a deeper understanding of inventory flow and shelf health, and the results exceeded expectations. We look forward to our continued partnership and bringing digital-grade insights to even more of Schnucks stores.”

Overall, Schnucks operates 118 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa and has more than 14,000 employees.

This past summer, Simbe’s Tally robot and the three Schnucks pilot stores also took part in a six-week test with sales and marketing tech specialist Advantage Solutions to gather and evaluate shelf data for three global consumer products manufacturers. The participating manufacturers received daily reports and an analysis of macro trends illustrating how their brands could better align with in-store category management and on-shelf opportunities. Reporting included out-of-stocks, trafficked items, low inventories and pricing audits.

“Retailers are missing out on nearly $450 billion in underoptimized shelf space. This trickles down to brands and products in a big way,” Bogolea said at the time. “There’s missed opportunity for stores and brands to better understand what’s happening on-shelf to recapture that potential lost revenue, and Simbe is looking to bridge that information gap.”

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