Following a multi-year and multi-million-dollar effort to use automated robots to keep track of inventory levels at its stores, big-box retail giant Walmart (WMT) - Get Report has ditched the effort, finding humans can get similar if not better results.
Walmart announced that it has ended its contract with robotics company Bossa Nova Robotics, which it had partnered with over the past five years to gradually add six-foot-tall inventory-scanning robotic machines to its stores.
Walmart ended the partnership because it found different, sometimes simpler solutions that proved just as useful - something that came to light during the coronavirus pandemic as more shoppers flock to online delivery and pickup, forcing Walmart to have workers physically walk store aisles to collect online orders.
The increased number and frequency of real-life people roaming aisles also helped Walmart better monitor its inventory levels, including keeping tabs on product amounts and locations.
Walmart continues to use other robots in stores, such as floor scrubbers that move through aisles alone.
Bossa Nova laid off around 50% of its staff after the contract with Walmart ended, a person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg, which said the robotics company was pivoting toward new clients and software ventures.
The venture-capital-backed company was spun out from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in 2005.
Tracking inventory has become even more relevant amid the pandemic as retailers not only need to ensure the quantity of goods on hand matches what is shown online but that supply chain issues are also properly addressed by knowing as early as possible when producers are running low.
Shares of Walmart were up 2.34% at $143.71 in trading on Tuesday.
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