Alert Innovation's Alphabot system designed to augment Walmart's online grocery service

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Walmart, in collaboration with a startup company called Alert Innovation, is set to launch a pilot using “first-of-its-kind automation” to help associates fill online grocery orders “faster than ever before.”

Walmart will use Alert Innovation's Alphabot system to augment its online grocery service, which allows customers to quickly and conveniently order groceries online, select a pickup time and have those groceries delivered to their car in minutes.

Alphabot will work behind the scenes to make this process even easier by automatically bringing items from storage to associates, who will then consolidate the items in the order.

Walmart says that Alphabot will help cut back on the amount of time its pickup associates have to spend walking the store aisles in search of products, and ultimately free up more time for them to ensure customers are getting the best in fresh produce, meats, etc.

Developed especially for Walmart, the Alphabot system is being installed at the supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire as part of the store’s re-grand opening. The system will be housed in the 20,000-square-foot extension connected to the store, which will also serve as a “dedicated grocery pickup point” with drive-thru lanes for customers.

When completed, automated mobile carts will retrieve ordered items—which will be stored warehouse-style in the new space—and deliver them to Walmart’s associates at one of four pick stations. Orders will then be picked, assembled and delivered to customers by Walmart’s personal shoppers.

Walmart notes that a “vast majority” of grocery products it offers in store will be fulfilled through the Alphabot system, but the personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items.

​With plans to have Alphabot online and running by the end of the year, Walmart says that the system will handle the “more mundane, repeatable tasks,” giving associates more time to focus on the two things they often say are the most enjoyable part of the job: service and selling.

“Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it,” Walmart says via press release.

“We have a lot to learn about this new technology, and we’re excited about the possibilities of how we can use it to make the future of shopping – and working – even better.”