Prime Coat—August, 2017

By Hans Mugler,

  Filed under: Departments, Lead, Primecoat


The Robots Are Coming!
The Robots Are Coming!

Well, this was inevitable. Mankind is obsessed with creating new, easier, faster ways for man (and woman) to do all sorts of things, but now a legion of robotics companies have zeroed in on typical retail stores as a place where they say they can make your life better, easier and faster…if you let them. Here in The Lou, and in other places across the land, we are starting to see robots popping up as service assistants in stores, as well as to help keep the supply chain moving. Enter Tally from Simbe Robotics. Tally is a robot that moves around a store, possibly yours, and takes inventory, notes items running low or out of stock, or finds items that are misplaced, say a roll of tape that someone left in the caulk display area.

Schnucks, a grocery chain of 100+ stores based in the St. Louis area, is experimenting with Tally in a few stores. Schnucks has been embroiled for the last year in a labor dispute with union employees, and I’ve noticed fewer employees working on the daily at my local Schnucks, so maybe this is where Tally was able to gain a foothold…“for testing purposes?”

Tally doesn’t need meal breaks or smoke breaks, doesn’t get a paycheck or account for any taxes, and doesn’t need a health plan, but Tally, or some other similar robotics, may eventually be one of your most trusted “partners” at your store. When Tally needs to be re-charged, it simply motors over to its charging station and gets the juice it needs before resuming its tasks. The base is about the size of the small robotic vacuums you see out there, like a Roomba, but has a tall, slender “body” that can also have an extension placed on it to view higher shelves. Tally can’t replace the items you are low on or missing, or that have been misplaced in areas where they shouldn’t be, but Tally will make notes about all of this and you or your staff can then act on the issues.

Now, I am in no way advocating replacing any of your staff with a legion of robots, but allowing helpful “smart” robots to ease your strain of day to day operations is not a bad idea. There are fantastic POS systems for paint stores that do a lot of great inventory control already, and robotics manufacturers are looking at those systems to see how something like Tally can help your system to be even more beneficial for you.

Having no idea about the pricing involved, I can only assume that a system like the Tally robot would not be cheap, but if it can save you money while upping your inventory control game, keeping your shelves stocked, and creating more sales, it just may be something that you should look into.

If robotics have already progressed this far, it’s only a matter of time before these machines get an even bigger dose of AI (artificial intelligence) to where they can make suggestions to your customers who are buying paint. “Will you need Primer for your project?” “Do you need tape with 7, 14 or 21-day adhesion?” or even “I’ve noticed you are selecting outdoor stain. Do you need deck cleaning products or applicators?”

The watch Dick Tracy wore was so cool and futuristic when we were kids, then Apple came out with the Apple Watch… almost as cool. Star Trek had its Tricorder communication device, not much different from today’s smart phones. The Jetsons cartoon was very futuristic, and their robot maid, Rosie, could handle a laundry list of tasks in short order. Much of what we all grew up with as futuristic and space age is in the here and now. Keep an open mind to the future and futuristic products that may be your ticket to better inventory control, better in-store service, and better and more sales. Peace Out!