Newburgh Schnucks uses a robot to help manage inventory

Do you remember growing up watching sci-fi TV shows and movies that depicted a future where robots were part of our daily lives? Some were housekeepers or butlers who catered to their owners’ every whim. Others were companions who simply played with the children of the family and listened to their problems although human emotion “didn’t count” with them. Of course, there were also those who enslaved humanity and sent Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to prevent the birth of the only human who could beat them. I don’t think the one I saw at Schnucks in Newburgh is the kind to top humanity, but you never know.

On my weekly run to the grocery store on Saturday, I popped into the cookie aisle to see if there were any that sounded good. As I walked down the aisle, I had my head turned so I could scan the shelves. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something coming towards me. Something that wasn’t human.

That was it :

inventory robot

Ryan O’Bryan

As a homemaker who deals with weekly groceries, I usually have to pop into Schnucks to get something off the list that I can’t find elsewhere. I would say since we moved to Newburgh in the summer of 2018 I have been to Schnucks several hundred times. In all these trips, I had never seen this thing until last Saturday.

Meet Tally

I stood there for a few seconds and watched this robot zigzag back and forth down the driveway. I wasn’t sure what he was doing exactly. I had read that some stores had robots that cleaned floors, but the base of this one was too small for that, and it was missing a majority of the aisle with the way it moved. As I got closer, I noticed he had a name tag on like any other store employee.

inventory robot

Ryan O’Bryan

When I first read his name, I thought it was pronounced “Tall-ee”, because that was about my height (6’3″). I also thought that it was a stupid, lazy name. Then I realized I was the stupid One. It doesn’t sound like “Tall-ee”, it sounds like “Tallee”, because its job is to count things and maintain a current account ‍♂️.

Apparently Schnucks has been using Tally to track their products for quite some time. I found an old press release from their corporate headquarters online from September 2020 announcing that they were expanding the use of Tally to more of their locations in the Midwest after successful trials in a few locations starting in 2017.

How Pointing Works

According to the press release, Tally works like this:

Using a suite of sensors, the robot operates safely during normal store hours alongside shoppers and employees and requires no changes to store infrastructure. Tally’s design is intuitive, user-friendly and fits naturally into the retail environment. The robot scans entire stores up to three times a day and autonomously returns to its dock allowing for continuous operation. Combined with Simbe’s (the company that created the system) cloud-based software platform powered by computer vision and machine learning, retailers have unprecedented insight and insight into the state of their stores. This information can be used to streamline store performance, maximize customer satisfaction, increase sales and optimize operational expenses.

Here’s a look at Tally in action with a bit more insight from Schnucks CIO Bob Hardester on why the company thinks it will improve the customer experience:

Isn’t technology something?

[Source: Schnucks Press Release / Fox 2 St. Louis on YouTube]

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