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04/11/2022

Shop Rite parent to monitor store shelves with AI robots

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Tally shelf-scanning solution
Wakefern is testing the Simbe Robotics Tally shelf-scanning solution.

Wakefern Food Corp. is turning to robotic automation to collect highly accurate shelf data.

The nation’s largest retailer-owned supermarket cooperative, which operates the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners, is piloting Simbe Robotics autonomous shelf-scanning “Tally” robots.

Tally robots autonomously roam store aisles up to three times per day, leveraging computer vision technology to scan products to ensure they are in-stock, in the correct location, and accurately priced on the sales floor.

The Simbe Robotics Tally platform does not require any infrastructure changes to the store environment, and is designed to operate during normal store hours collaboratively with store teams, and safely alongside shoppers. The robot is equipped with sensors that enable it to strategically navigate quietly and autonomously across the store. Wakefern also hopes that Tally’s data-gathering technology will free up time for store associates to work more closely with customers.

Two other regional grocers, Hy-Vee Inc. and Schnuck Markets, have also deployed Simbe Robotics Tally robots in their stores to automate the capture of on-shelf data including inventory position, price accuracy, and promotional execution.

Wakefern continues down automation path
Meanwhile, Wakefern has recently been implementing a variety of automation solutions. In January 2022, the grocer began leveraging artificial intelligence (AI)-based frictionless checkout technology from Israeli computer vision solutions provider Trigo at select grocery locations. Utilizing Trigo’s computer vision technology and existing in-store technology, Wakefern is transforming pilot stores into fully autonomous, digital shopping environments. 

Shoppers at the stores use an app to scan a QR code as they enter, and then will be free to pick up items and leave without having to checkout, as there is no exit gate. With this deployment, Wakefern is competing with the proprietary frictionless  “Just Walk Out” experience Amazon offers.

The company’s ShopRite banner recently rolled out the Bell and Howell QuickCollect Go Pod, which enables shoppers to retrieve their online ShopRite grocery orders from a temperature-controlled outdoor pickup pod, at a store in New Rochelle, N.Y.

When items are ready, customers receive a text containing a QR code to scan on the console screen, which brings the order to the customer pickup portal, allowing them to access their pre-ordered groceries.

And in September 2020, ShopRite became the first supermarket chain on the East Coast to utilize Tortoise delivery robots. The remote-controlled, zero-emissions carts typically travel on sidewalks or the side of the road, and are tele-operated by trained remote drivers.

“Wakefern Food Corp. is committed to providing our customers best-in-class grocery shopping experiences,” said Charles J. McWeeney, VP, technology, innovation & strategy at Wakefern Food Corp. “Tally’s technology is another tool to help our store operations and staff while creating new opportunities to maximize customer satisfaction.”

“The retail industry is facing a unique and unprecedented set of challenges, and companies must thoughtfully adopt technology to address those challenges while continuing to provide a stellar level of service that customers expect,” said Brad Bogolea, co-founder and CEO of Simbe Robotics. “Tally is a cost-effective solution that supports the work of store teams and enhances the retail experience for associates and customers.”

Founded in 1946, Wakefern Food Corp. comprises nearly 50 member families who today independently own and operate close to 360 supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.