But the growing drive to automate could reduce the number of retail jobs at a time when unemployment is increasing and viral lockdowns force many retailers to close their doors permanently.
Before COVID-19 hit, retailers had moved online and increased automation as technological developments permitted machines to perform increasingly complicated tasks.
The pandemic has accelerated these trends as distributors are trying to cut costs and safeguard their customers and employees, experts say.
Simbe Technologies, a South San Francisco start-up in California, makes an automatic robotic system that takes stock stock shelves and clothing racks that can be tedious and time-consuming for retailers.
"Tally is a fully autonomous mobile robot that really helps retailers to take stock in retail stores," said Brad Bogolea, CEO and co-founder of Simbe Robotics. "Tally's goal is to ensure that our product is always in the right place and at the right price."
In supermarkets, pharmaceutical stores and other retailers around the world, including St. Louise grocery store Schnucks Markets, Pittsburg-based supermarket chain Giant Eagle, and sports good retailer Decathlon Simbe leased its shelf-scan robots.
"With COVID 19, we believe that the case for automation and better retail data is now stronger than ever. We believe this will drive more robotics, "said Bogolea. "In fact, there is more social distancing in the environment because a robot does those tasks and not an individual."
Brain Corp., San Diego, produces a robot operating system capable of automating existing machines. Your main product to date is a self-driving floor scrubber, which can be cleaned during shopping hours and avoid people.
"We 're going to take the dull and monotonous job of floor cleaning," said Phil Duffy, Product Vice President of Brain Corp. "The janitors, the operators and the employees have now been able to spend the essential and crucial services on keeping everything clean."
Brain Corp. reports that over 10,000 robots are used by major retailers, including the Kroger and Walmart supermarket chain, as well as airports and schools. In April, the company raised a further 36 million dollars in risk capital to extend to areas outside of floor care, such as stock delivery and shelf analysis.
Bossa Nova Robotics, San Francisco based, manufactures autonomous machines similar to the Simbe Tally robot. Bossa Nova announced earlier this year that its shelf scanning robots will be used in 1,000 Walmart stores this year, up from 350 shops last year.
Experts believe that the pandemic will speed up the adoption of robots as retailers try to reduce costs and reduce disease propagation in their stores.
However, as robots accomplish more tasks previously performed by humans, the need for human workers could decrease when coronavirus lockdowns have led to rising global unemployment.
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