But the benefits go beyond associates 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.
Real-time data sharing is also a benefit. Because Alphabot continually shares order information, the system will learn – and as it does, stocking will get more intelligent. Adoption of this new system across stores can lead to a more seamless grocery pickup and delivery experience, making substitutions easier to anticipate and fill.
“We never want to be in a position to tell an online grocery customer they can’t have an item,” Roth said. “We’ll be able to look at datasets and fairly say ‘these two brands of pasta are typically bought together,’ or ‘here’s an item a consumer buys often,’ and use that information to make more informed substitutions.”
Alphabot has been operating at its pilot location in Salem since mid-2019. The store will continue to serve as Alphabot’s home while the process is studied, refined and perfected. After collecting associate and customer feedback, next steps for a broader Alphabot rollout will be assessed. Until then, the system will continue to assist associates in Salem as they usher in a new era of productivity and service that could shape the future of modern retail.