Walmart acquires automated grocery business to bolster execution


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Diving Brief:

  • Walmart announced Thursday that it has acquired an online grocery automation business Alert Innovation, which produces bespoke inventory management technology.
  • Alert Innovation’s Alphabot system is designed to store, retrieve and distribute orders using robots that move omnidirectionally without elevators or conveyors, reducing space constraints and making it easier to scale technology, according to the release.
  • The retail giant said it would work with Alert to “expand their capabilities”, noting the technology will speed up pickup and delivery for customers. Financial details were not disclosed.

Overview of the dive:

The retail giant said Alphabot technology would allow it to leverage its massive store footprint – 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the US population – for storage and fulfillment.

The acquisition of Alert is part of Walmart’s plan to extend the technology across its operations and create the “new generation of distribution centers.” Walmart has worked with Alert since 2016 to customize the automation of its grocery micro-fulfillment operation and has started drive the Alphabot in 2019.

“Bringing the best of Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will allow us to reach more customers faster by deploying [micro-fulfillment centers] with greater speed, delivering both an unparalleled shopping experience and a competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment,” said David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart US, in a statement.

Last year, Walmart announcement it would add automated micro-fulfillment centers to “dozens” of stores, incorporating the technology of suppliers As Dematic, Fabric and Alert. He said at the time that he would test micro-distribution center solutions in stores as well as in adjacent buildings.

Walmart has stepped up its efforts to scale its supply chain automation in recent months. In May, the distribution giant signed an agreement deploy Symbolic end-to-end automation system in all of its 42 regional distribution centers and recently took an 11.1% stake in the AI ​​company.

Other retailers have also worked to bring robotic capabilities in-house. Amazon capitalized on its acquisition of Kiva Systems ten years ago to develop its robotics division, Amazon Robotics. The e-commerce giant now has “more than a dozen types of robotic systems” installed in its facilities, according to a blog post.

Jeff Wells and Sam Silverstein of Grocery Dive contributed to this story.

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