Robots 12: The Grocery Store Robots

In more than a dozen St. Louis area Schnucks grocery stores, you’ll see expressions ranging from confused to amused these days.  The “what is that?” look being worn on all those faces is the result of a roughly five-foot tall machine rolling from aisle to aisle.  “What we have is a robot called Tally that drives through the stores and helps the stores with their inventory,” Lauren Milliken from Simbe Robotics explains on a recent afternoon in Schnucks’ Des Peres store.

So robots have come to the local market, but you don’t’ have to worry about a scene from “The Terminator” playing out in aisle 6.  “You don’t see Tally and think it’s some scary machine down the aisle,” Milliken says.  “It’s just this cute little robot.  That’s one of the things I like.”

What grocers like is the potential for more efficiency.  Tally makes a three-hour trip around a Schnucks store three times daily, checking every single shelf.  When the robot finds an empty spot, it checks its inventory list and messages the store staff that there is an item in need of re-stocking.