Meet Tally: The Grocery Stocking Robot About To Eradicate 1,000's Of Minimum Wage Jobs

Amazon wiped out billions of dollars worth of grocery store market cap last month when they announced plans to purchase Whole Foods.  The announcement sent shares of Kroger, Wal-Mart, Sprouts, and Target, among others, plunging... (WMT -4%, TGT -5.5%, SFM -7.6%, KR -12%).

 

 

But, as we pointed out back in May, well before Amazon's decision to buy Whole Foods, Amazon's success in penetrating the traditional grocery market was always a matter of when, not if.  Concept stores, like Amazon Go, already exist that virtually eliminate the need for dozens of in-store employees which will allow them to generate higher returns at lower price points than traditional grocers.  And, with grocery margins averaging around 1-2% at best, if Amazon, or anyone for that matter, can truly create smart stores with no check outs and cut employees in half they can effectively destroy the traditional supermarket business model.

And while the demise of the traditional grocery store will undoubtedly take time (recall that people were calling for the demise of Blockbuster for nearly a decade before it finally happened), make no mistake that the retail grocery market 10-15 years from now will not look anything like the stores you visit today.

 

So, grocers have a choice: (i) adapt to the technological revolution that is about to transform their industry or (ii) face the same slow death that ultimately claimed the life of Blockbuster.

As such, as the the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out today, the relatively small Midwest grocery store chain of Schnucks has decided to roll out the first of what could eventually be a large fleet of grocery stocking robots.

A slender robot named Tally soon will be roaming the aisles at select Schnucks groceries, on the lookout for out-of-stock items and verifying prices.

 

Maryland Heights-based Schnuck Markets, which operates 100 stores in five states, on Monday will begin testing its first Tally at its store at 6600 Clayton Road in Richmond Heights. The pilot test is expected to last six weeks. A second Tally will appear in coming weeks at Schnucks stores at 1060 Woods Mill Road in Town and Country and at 10233 Manchester Road in Kirkwood.

 

The robots are the first test of the technology in Missouri and could ultimately be expanded to more Schnucks stores.

 

Each 30-pound robot is equipped with sensors to help it navigate the store’s layout and avoid bumping into customers’ carts. When it detects product areas that aren’t fully stocked, the data is shared with store management staff so the retailer can make changes, said Dave Steck, Schnuck Markets’ vice president of IT and infrastructure.

Tally, created by a San Francisco-based company named Simbe, is also being tested at other mass merchants and dollar stores all across the country.

Founded in 2014, Simbe has placed Tally robots in mass merchants, dollar stores and groceries across the country, including some Target stores in San Francisco last year.

 

“The goal of Tally is to create more of a feedback mechanism,” Bogolea said. “Although most retailers have good supply chain intelligence, and point-of-sale data on what they’ve sold, what’s challenging for retailers is understanding the true state of merchandise on shelves. Everyone sees value in higher quality, more frequent information across the entire value chain.”

 

The robot does take breaks. When Tally senses it’s low on power, it finds its way to a charging dock. And, the robot is designed to stay out of the way of customers. If it detects a congested area, it’ll return to the aisle when it’s less busy. If a shopper approaches the robot, it’s programmed to stop moving.

Meanwhile, with nearly 40,000 grocery stores in the U.S. employing roughly 3.5mm people, most of whom work at or near minimum wage, Bernie's "Fight for $15" agitators may want to take note of this development.

Comments

Zarbo (not verified) Wed, 07/26/2017 - 18:08 Permalink

Ever got something that wasn't in the database?  Is Tally gonna call for a price check?

Bob Zarbo (not verified) Wed, 07/26/2017 - 18:19 Permalink

I don't see much stocking going on with this roving detector of unstocked shelves.  What is it that was revolutionary about this development?Other than a kick in the balls to the useless eater class, I mean.  We sure do love those. Aren't their bar code-reading checkout registers tracking inventory well enough?The gains from this will be minuscule, if real at all.

In reply to by Zarbo (not verified)

JuliaS Jim Sampson (not verified) Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:00 Permalink

How about a self-shopping robot. Not the kind that brings items to the owner, but drives them straight to the dump. That's where most things end up anyway. Save people some time. Cut out the middle man. Hmm. On second thought, why have a store in first place? Just have a dump right next to the factory. Produce and destory. Oh wait. We already have that system. It's called the Military Industrial Complex.

In reply to by Jim Sampson (not verified)

evoila armada (not verified) Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:34 Permalink

The only reason we have a need for all these robots is because we have inflation. Simple solution to this madness is to eradicate inflation. The first step is to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. That will lead to the elimination of the FED, and eliminate most of the inflation we have.Yes, we won't be able to print growth, but that "growth" will get transferred into the power of our currency, and all the dumb foxes who say as strong dollar is no good, are stupid, because other currencies will have no choice but to peg back to the USD, and we will get more and more of their resources in the process unless they get their shit in order.

In reply to by armada (not verified)

Occident Mortal armada (not verified) Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:37 Permalink

When grocers get automated there won't be a robot roaming up and down the aisle stacking shelves like some pathetic human worker.

The aisles and the shelves themselves will be the robot.

The aisles will be automatically replenished from the back of the shelf which will be accessed from above which is where the store room will be.

Robots will roam about on the second floor unloading pallets and moving the goods into self loading shelving magazines which will load items from second floor down to shop floor via the backs of the shelves.

In reply to by armada (not verified)

techpriest NidStyles Wed, 07/26/2017 - 22:55 Permalink

It doesn't have to.

If it automates 10% of the workforce, such that the store can lay off 5% and put another 5% to other duties (like helping customers), then its a financial win.

Ultimately, what robotics will do is create two new shopping experiences. One is Mecha-Wal-Mart, where the only paid staff are security, and prices are driven as low as possible.

The other is going to be one where robots do all/most of the non-customer-facing labor, and the staff are there mainly to give you a great customer experience. For example, if you have been in a Whole Foods, they often have a guy in the wine section at a table, running a bar and chatting with you about vintages. I don't go for that, but I always see a few people having a great time at the table.

Either way, minimum wage jobs will be hit, but the workers who are very good with people will be kept on in the latter case, and paid more.

In reply to by NidStyles

techpriest HalinCA (not verified) Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:05 Permalink

Higher wages, certainly.

Not high enough to be a long-term career, but higher in the sense that someone who is good with people and able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the day could easily find work somewhere else, and as such it costs more to keep such people around.

Of course, after a certain period of time such people are going to figure out they can make much more doing sales or other customer-facing roles in more lucrative fields.

In reply to by HalinCA (not verified)

PeeramidIdeologies Bob Wed, 07/26/2017 - 18:28 Permalink

As stated it is a feedback mechanism. While techno is incredibly adept at accomplishing repedative tasks, it requires a mountain of data to do so.

It's a toe in the water so to speak.

It's time to trash the term grocery store, food warehouse should do the trick... oh wait that's where the product came from originally.

What are we gonna do with all these buildings?!

In reply to by Bob

tmosley quadraspleen Wed, 07/26/2017 - 18:43 Permalink

This "Tally" is NOT a stocking robot, it is an inventory auditing robot. Inventory auditor is the most mind numbing job in the world, done by the world's biggest losers. Probably 50% don't come back for their second day. Prime target for automation.Real automated stockers will have to wait for now. Once they get here, grocery store prices will drop significantly.It's a good thing.

In reply to by quadraspleen

tmosley Andre Wed, 07/26/2017 - 21:26 Permalink

Not in markets with competition.You don't pay to shitpost on the internet. The grunt work of serving and recording data on the internet is all done by robots. Marginal cost approaches zero, so the price approaches zero. Same will happen with retail.If this effect were not in play, it would still take you a full day's worth of labor to earn your daily bread, rather than 10 minutes of minimum wage labor.

In reply to by Andre

techpriest tmosley Wed, 07/26/2017 - 23:02 Permalink

The funny thing is, the proto-Marxists are the ones who can't figure out why the regulations meant to "save us" from the "greedy capitalists" are in fact the very tools that cronies use to enrich themselves at the public expense.

If anyone has been at an auction or put out an RFP, you know that the more competition is out there, the more likely you are to get the exact thing you want at the most reasonable price. I would rather that technology enable twice as many people to get into this business, with new models and price points, than to demand that we stay frozen in the 80s.

In reply to by tmosley

JuliaS Ski12568 Wed, 07/26/2017 - 23:05 Permalink

Absolutely. All short term profits will be eroded almost immediately by competition. The savings won't be passed onto anyone, except the Fed, who will finance loans needed to convert conventional infrastructure into a robotic paradigm. And then another upgrade, and then another.Remember CFL light bulbs that cut down energy use by about 2/3? Did electricity rates go down anywhere? Of course not. You got to replace all your old bulbs, because government made them illegal. Ahh! The safety of glowing mercury slowly leaking out of the tube! Can't beat that!Upgrade had a premium, of course - the new bulb was more sophistimacated, with transformer, regulator and a bendy glass tube and stiff. And just as you were done transitioning, it's LED time, when a single light bulb often costs as much as a monthly electric bill before this whole shennanigans stated. Power use is now less than 1/10th - add the new efficient fridge and stove into the mix that won't last 5 years and cost a fortune, replacing the far superior metal box from the 60's that would probably survive a nuclear blast with you in it, like in the movie.Did you feel the savings? Did your monthly electrical bill go down, anyone? Of course not! Because utility companies are like the banks - they know that when efficiency leaps forward, that is the time to steal money and jack the rates up, hoping no one would notice.And energy efficient stoves - what utter garbage. I had an old stove. Worked fine. Then the building decided to replace it for some bullshit regulatory reason. The new one looks fancy and has an EnergyStar sticker on it. Consumes less power per hour alright. You know why? Because it now takes 14 minutes instead of 4 to bring the fucking kettle to a boil!So, yes you are correct. Prices are never coming down. As a citizen living in a fiat regime, you have 2 options which are inflation - prices growing faster than wages, or deflation - wages falling faster than prices. Have your pick!

In reply to by Ski12568

Jon Bong Jovi Bob Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:11 Permalink

Wait till 3D printed food makes this shit obsolete. You'll just get a pod of protein made from ground up worms and cockroaches and substrate. There won't be need for seasoning. They're developing tech to send signals to the brain to mimick the flavors of real food. This is our future.  

In reply to by Bob

mrtoad Bob Thu, 07/27/2017 - 05:28 Permalink

It's one part of a much bigger whole. automated trucks drive to the store. Automated forklifts unload the trucks and put in the waerhouse. The night filling machines fill the shelves. tally puts the info into the warehouse database. Like in the video... then the people can use an app on their phone to walk in and everything they take is recorded.

In reply to by Bob