Published on June 8th, 2021 | by Emergent Enterprise0
New AR Feature for Walmart Associates Takes Away Inventory “Hide & Seek”
Have you ever asked a retail associate if they have more of a certain product in stock? When you send them off to find your size or color of the product you want you are often beginning an exercise in futility for them as they search around a back-of-store warehouse with few clues. This post from Srini Venkatesan of Walmart at Linkedin shares his account of the adoption of an augmented reality app that gives associates x-ray vision when searching for a product. With a simple design, the app looks at boxes with the smart device camera and shows a checkmark on top of the box that includes the sought after stock. Brilliant! The app not only saves time but also results in a happy customer who gets an answer to their question quicker. On average the task has been reduced from several minutes to 42 seconds. And, the app interacts with the Walmart inventory data infrastructure which supports the overall logistics effort to keep shelves stocked. Next time you ask an associate, “Do you have this in medium?” let them use their smart phone to find it!
Every retailer has encountered the age-old problem of needing to quickly find product held in the backroom. And with each Walmart Supercenter’s backroom holding up to 15,000 cases of product, a store associate’s ability to find and move the correct inventory to the sales floor as quickly as possible is critical to customer satisfaction.
To improve this, we took a technology-based approach and developed a customized augmented reality (AR) overlay that instantly maps and tracks every box in the backroom for store associates. Rather than the old method of associates manually moving and lifting boxes to read the label on each to determine the contents, the solution we built relies on camera-readable labels affixed to each box, highlighting boxes to show which items need to be moved to shelves. This technology reduces the need for manually scanning each box to find the correct one. For example, during the summer months when fans are in high demand, this AR feature can help associates quickly locate more inventory in the backroom and move it to the sales floor.
Beyond locating boxes, this capability enhances productivity by managing the number of items in each container and uses colored icons to give associates a clear visual representation of what actions need to be taken with each box.