Friday, 03. April 2020

Robotic technologies in retail

At Saturn it’s Tory, at Decathlon Tally and at Zalando Torus: more and more often machines are giving people in the retail trade a hand. Robots are conquering warehouses and logistics centers as well as processes at the POS and on the sales floor. They take inventories from employees, report shelf gaps, navigate customers through the store, and shine with extra knowledge about products. According to a study by the consulting firm Elaboratum, which is available to the “Handelsblatt”, 76 percent of those surveyed can even imagine using an auxiliary robot for shopping in the future. Many industry experts are certain: Whoever uses robots will win. Let me show you why.

Pepper warns to keep your distance

The coronavirus crisis is putting retailers to a severe test. Employees are working at the limit, exposing themselves to the risk of infection with the new virus every day, and also have to deal with seemingly unteachable and ignorant customers who do not comply with hygiene regulations. That gets on their nerves.

In an Edeka store in Lindlar, North Rhine-Westphalia, a small robot has been helping out since last Wednesday. “Pepper”, who is a caregiver robot, is standing in the checkout area of the store and swears shoppers in an electronic voice to take protective measures. He also promotes consideration and solidarity with each other and advises against hamster purchases with a child-friendly expression on his face. Even if “Pepper” doesn’t get involved, the robot supports the supermarket staff in another way – by appealing to the customers’ common sense.

Tory, the inventory and shelf-lifting robot

Pepper’s brothers and sisters are pretty good at this. When the hustle and bustle come to an end at the Adler fashion house, for example, inventory robot “Tory” gets to work. The one-meter tall robot travels through the aisles of the stores, scans inventory gaps and detects misplacements by scanning RFID labels. The robot detects 99 percent of the goods on the sales floor and is up to three times faster than a human with RFID hand scanners, according to an article in the Lebensmittel-Zeitung. “While employees record 4,000 items per hour, the Metralabs machine can handle between 10,000 and 15,000,” it further describes. Tory” transmits the current stock to the merchandise management system. The system, in turn, reorders blouses, trousers, and dresses from the central warehouse and asks the employees to move them the next morning.

The Cobot: colleague robot

More and more food manufacturers are also counting on a future in which humans and robots work hand in hand. At the beginning of the year, Nestlé Germany announced its intention to expand the use of collaborating robots, called cobots.

These robots use a gripper arm to layer cartons of products such as after-eight chocolate on a pallet – up to 1.5 meters high. When the pallet is full, an employee pulls it out of the work area and places a new one inside. The Cobot relieves the employees of some of the work by packing the pallets. And that was precisely the motivation behind the changeover to the automated packing process. “Until now, one employee stacked the cartons there and lifted 6 tons per shift by hand,” says production engineer Sven-Peter Schemel in a report in the Lebensmittel-Zeitung.

You too can relieve your employees

You too can relieve your retail staff. With the automation of your disposal process, for example. I am Anton Leon Baler, an automated baling press Teamwork and efficiency are very important to me.

While Nestlé’s Cobot saves employees from lifting 6 tonnes a day, I save my colleagues 400 bendings a day. The disposal of packaging, in particular, takes time in the retail trade and is poison to the back and hands. Using cutter knives to cut up cartons is dangerous and the deep bending to collect cartons puts a strain on the spine and knees. With a baling press with automatic filling, you reduce this physical effort. Manual tearing and cutting of cartons are eliminated.

The fact that the bale chambers no longer have to be filled by hand by the employees is not only safer and healthier but also saves a lot of time. One branch alone saves over 500 working hours per year with this automated disposal. That is for two hours a day. Valuable time that your employees can use more sensibly.

Whether Tory or Pepper, robot technologies and automated processes bring enormous benefits for you and your retail business, and employees have more time for their core business.

Strautmann Umwelttechnik GmbH