Monthly Archives: November 2018

More Robots To Hit The Aisles At Schnucks Grocery Stores In St. Louis Area

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Jacob Barker  Oct 30, 2018

Click Image For Article With Video

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Tally, the shelf-auditing robot, moves up and down the aisles documenting inventory on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, on the shelves of the Schnucks grocery store in Des Peres. At right, Schnucks clerk Bill Degenhart, a 31-year employee, re-stocks the shelves after Tally reports its findings to inventory management. Schnuck Markets plans to expand the robots to at least 15 of their area stores. Photo by 

Updated 10/30 with comments from the union representing Schnucks workers.

In at least 15 Schnuck Markets stores, the future is now.

Aisle-scanning retail inventory robots, known as Tally, will soon be wheeling around in a growing number of locations as the St. Louis area’s leading grocer expands its partnership with San Francisco firm Simbe Robotics.

The robot, which moves around on a Roomba-looking base, uses cameras and sensors to perform inventory checks and alert employees when an item needs restocking or if price tags don’t match advertisements.

The grocery chain piloted the Tally robot in July 2017 in three stores. Then, several months ago, Schnucks officials began operating the Tally robots in four stores — Ballwin, Des Peres, Webster Groves and Woods Mill in Chesterfield.

Tally will keep its job at those four stores.

“We saw that our out-of-stock positions improved greatly,” said Bob Hardester, Schnucks’ chief information officer.

Schnucks plans to roll Tally out at four more stores in the next month: Granite City, Twin Oaks, Cross Keys in Florissant and Sierra Vista in Spanish Lake.

Those stores are near some of the 16 Shop ’n Save stores that are expected to close this month as the former competitor discontinues operations, and Tally is supposed to help manage any new influx of customers to Schnucks. Seven other stores will be chosen for a Tally robot installation over the coming months based on any increased sales volume.

The robot has already improved since the pilot last year, and the latest version can scan the aisles (excluding produce, meat and deli, which have dedicated staffs to track inventory) of Schnucks’ 74,000-square-foot Des Peres store in three hours. That’s down from the four hours it was taking at the Richmond Heights location, Schnucks’ busiest location and the initial test store for last year’s pilot.

Tally is part of Schnucks’ efforts to collect and harness more and better data on shopping habits and inventory. Hardester credited the company’s move three years ago to install fiber in its stores that allows the use of heavy data-collection technology such as Tally.

It follows the grocer’s move last month to roll out a reward app which is as much about tracking customer shopping habits as promoting brand loyalty with points and coupons.

Tally will create a detailed digital map of Schnucks stores that can be used as shopping moves into augmented reality, where shoppers could use smartphone apps or headsets to help them better locate exactly where items are and more details about those items.

“For the customer who wants that type of experience, we’ll be able to give it to them,” Hardester said.

Schnucks has been an early partner of Simbe, founded in 2014. No other retailers have publicly announced their use of Simbe’s Tally robot, though Target Corp. was said to have operated a pilot in San Francisco locations two years ago. Tally also provides data to consumer goods and food manufacturer companies about shelf location and consumer preferences. Walmart began rolling out similar robots through a different company last year.

Hardester said Schnucks uses the service on a monthly subscription basis for a “reasonable” fee.

If it continues seeing improvements in stores with Tally, keep a look out for more Tallys in Schnucks’ nearly 120 locations.

“It’s very plausible you could eventually see a Tally in each store,” Hardester said.

Hardester emphasized the move is not about eliminating jobs. Though the union that represents most Schnucks employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, hasn’t exactly endorsed Tally, Hardester said they are “aware” of the project. Each store still has a staff member in charge of checking inventory and ordering more, he noted.

“They’re not being replaced,” he said of employees. “It’s just making their life more efficient.”

Local 655 President David Cook said the union plans to discuss Tally with Schnucks officials in coming weeks. The union has dealt with technological advances before — self-checkers, for instance — though Cook said he’s happy Schnucks is “on the cutting edge and trying to stay competitive.”

“If we walk down the road of this new technology, which is great, we just need to make sure we protect those individuals that gave the company the ability to make those advances,” Cook said. “Whenever there’s change, there’s questions.”

The World’s First Robot Warehouse Without Human Workers.

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The world’s first humanless warehouse is run only by robots and is a model for the future

Mujin, a start-up spun out of Tokyo University, has developed robot controllers that can fully automate warehouses and fulfillment centers.

Its customer, JD.com, has what it calls the world’s first fully automated e-commerce warehouse in China equipped with Mujin robots.

The Japanese start-up wants to help automate warehouses in the United States.cnbc.com

Guest Contributor | Tim Hornyak | @robotopiaPublished 10:29 AM ET Tue, 30 Oct 2018

 Updated 7:07 PM ET Tue, 30 Oct 2018
At a recent technology show in Tokyo, a large robot arm reached into a full-sized mockup of a shipping container and began unloading boxes from it. Set on a platform that moved back and forth, the robot was doing a job usually carried out by warehouse workers and forklift operators. The goal of the company that’s developing it, Mujin, is total automation.

The system, still a prototype, doesn’t work perfectly — it accidentally damaged a box during the demo — but it’s going to be trialed in warehouses in Japan this year.”Lifting heavy boxes is probably the most backbreaking task in warehouse logistics,” said Mujin’s American co-founder and CTO, Rosen Diankov. “A lot of companies are looking for truck unloading systems, and I believe we’re the closest to commercialization.”

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The Tokyo-based start-up is aiming to be a leader in automating logistics processes. To do that, it’s building robot controllers and camera systems and integrating them with existing industrial robot arms. The key product here is the controllers — each about the size of a briefcase, one for motion planning and one for vision — that act as an operating system that can control the hardware from any robot manufacturer. If a goal such as grasping an object is input, the controllers automatically can generate motions for robots, eliminating the traditional need to “teach” robots manually. The result, according to the company, is higher productivity for users.

Simply put, the technology — based on motion planning and computer vision — makes industrial robots capable of autonomous and intelligent action.

Mujin turned heads when it showed off its transformation of a warehouse operated by Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com. The 40,000-sq-m facility in Shanghai began full operations in June. It was equipped with 20 industrial robots that pick, transfer and pack packages using crates on conveyor belts, as well as camera systems and Mujin robot controllers. Other robots carted merchandise around to loading docks and trucks.

Amazon also has invested heavily in automating its fulfillment centers, buying Mass.-based robot company Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012, but JD.com called its facility the world’s first fully automated e-commerce warehouse. Instead of the usual 400 to 500 workers needed to run a warehouse that size, it needs only five. And their job is only to service the machines, not run operations.

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CDC’s Handling Of Polio-Like Illness Criticized By Its Own Advisers

CDC’s handling of polio-like illness criticized by its own advisers

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

Updated 2:29 PM ET, Tue October 30, 2018

Albany, Oregon (CNN)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own medical advisers are criticizing the federal health agency for being slow to respond to a polio-like disease that’s struck hundreds of children over the past six years.

“Frustrated and disappointed — I think that’s exactly how most of us feel,” said Dr. Keith Van Haren, one of the CDC advisers on AFM and an assistant professor of neurology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Van Haren and other doctors who care for these children say the agency has been slow to gather data and to guide pediatricians and emergency room physicians on how to diagnose and treat the children struck with the disease, acute flaccid myelitis.
“This is the CDC’s job. This is what they’re supposed to do well. And it’s a source of frustration to many of us that they’re apparently not doing these things,” said Dr. Kenneth Tyler, a professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and another adviser to the CDC on AFM.

At a press briefing this month, a CDC doctor said the agency was working hard to find the cause of the outbreaks.

“We continue to investigate to better understand the clinical picture of AFM cases, risk factors and possible causes of the increase in cases,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National
Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
She said the agency could do a better job getting the message out about the signs of AFM.
“We’re obviously not doing a good enough job because it’s not getting to every place that we want it to, so we need to work harder,” she told CNN in an interview.
According to the CDC, since 2014, there have been 396 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, which resembles polio and causes paralysis in children.
This year, there have been 72 confirmed cases of AFM, and another 119 possible cases are being investigated, according to the agency.