Future Stores Seattle 2018

June 18 - 21, 2018

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Here's How Simbe Robotics is Keeping Tally with Its Innovative Shelf Auditing Technology

brought to you by WBR Insights

Retail automation is a big part of the industry today, and companies are always on the lookout for ways to introduce new technology to the day-to-day operations of their business. Simbe Robots is following this trend with its innovative stock-taking robot.

Simbe Robotics was founded in 2014 in San Francisco, California, by Pennsylvania State computer science alumni Bradley Bogolea and Mirza Shah. With a strong focus on building exciting automation solutions for the retail industry, Simbe Robotics is at the very fore of robotics technology. Backed by leading hardware venture fund Lemnos Labs and startup accelerator veteran of 20 years SOSV, Simbe Robotics is ideally positioned to provide severe disruption to the world of retail.

Retail has its fair share of mundane tasks which must be completed by its hard-working employees, and indeed it's the very mundanity of these tasks which makes them ripe for automation.

Enter Retail Automation Robot - Tally

The first of retail's issues which Simbe Robotics has chosen to target is that of auditing shelf stock. The business of stock-taking is boring, inconvenient, time and labor intensive, and prone to error. It's estimated that global retailers lose nearly $450 billion dollars per year in missed sales opportunities arising from out of stock items, empty shelves, and other inconsistencies in-store. Retailers which have been relying on manual labor and IT for stock management are more than aware of the issue as well - research shows that 70% rate their stock management proficiency as average or lower.

It is with these inadequacies in mind that Simbe set to work on its first robot, and is now finally ready to unleash Tally on the retail industry.

"When it comes to the retail industry, shopper experience is everything. If a product is unavailable at the time the shopper wants to buy it, the retailer has missed an opportunity and disappointed their customer," said Brad Bogolea, CEO and Co-founder of Simbe Robotics. "Tally helps retailers address these challenges by providing more precise and timely analysis of the state of in-store merchandise and freeing up staff to focus on customer service."

(Video source: youtube.com)

Standing at 38 inches tall and weighing in at around 30lbs, Tally is an adorable machine which somewhat resembles and upright vacuum cleaner. With a pair of blinking eyes on its digital display serving to anthropomorphize the droid, Tally travels around a store scanning the shelves for issues such as low stock, pricing errors and more. The data it collects is then fed back to a tablet device, in real-time, so that human staff can be dispatched to address the problem.

Tally carries out its task by comparing the photos it takes of the shelves with pre-loaded 'ideal' images in its memory. Where it spots discrepancies, it flags the shelf for attention - working very much like an android-powered spot-the-difference puzzle. "Hey, three facings of Coca-Cola are out in aisle 6, we have a mixed-up books item in aisle 7, we have an incorrect price in aisle 10," said Bogolea, giving some examples of the things Tally might report.

Tally is designed to complete shelf audits faster and more accurately, with Simbe Robotics claiming the robot can scan a small-to-medium-sized grocery store (a task which could take a human an entire shift) in just 30-40 minutes. Tally can check 15,000 to 20,000 products per hour across shelves up to eight feet high.

However, for those fearing the imminent replacement of the world's human workforce, Tally isn't without its limitations.

"Stores that stock goods on shelves with easily-viewed barcodes and prices are the best fit for Tally. Clothing retailers aren't great fits because of this," said Simbe Robotics. "Tally can work in the frozen goods section of a grocery provided there isn't heavy condensation on the freezer doors, or a strong glare from overhead lights."

Tally was originally considered for the healthcare and hospitality industries before Simbe Robotics settled on retail, so the potential for other applications of the technology are broad.

Final Thoughts

Simbe Robotics has taken an age-old retail problem and solved it with an elegant and innovative machine. Tally may not be perfect yet, but it's already better and faster at shelf auditing than its human colleagues - and it is only likely to improve as retail automation technology develops.

The final word goes to CEO and Co-founder of Simbe Robotics, Brad Bogolea.

"[Manual] Audits become stale and invalid shortly after they are taken due to the dynamic changes in the store. We knew that with a robotics solution we could fully automate this task and perform it faster, cheaper, continuously, and with far more accuracy."

Retail automation is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores West 2018 this June at the Sheraton Seattle, WA.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.