Convenience stores

Restocking robots deployed in 300 Japanese convenience stores

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The TX SCARA robot is designed to operate in the cold compartment of a convenience store and replenish stock 24/7. | Credit: Telexistence Inc.

To validate its AI-based Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) solution for food retailers, Telexistence Inc. announced the mass production of TX SCARA, which will be installed in 300 FamilyMart convenience stores in Japan, starting this month in major metropolitan areas.

TX SCARA was developed to handle the specialized work of filling refrigerator shelves with bottles and cans, a monotonous and tedious activity typically performed by employees in often poorly lit environments.

The robots work around the clock, restocking shelves at a rate of up to 1,000 bottles and cans a day, and rely almost entirely on its artificial intelligence (AI) system, known as “GORDON”, to determine when and where products should be stored.

GORDON uses a pre-recorded layout of the shelves he needs to restock which is created by a camera sweep. The robot’s depth sensors and color sensors detect when a shelf begins to empty, then GORDON calculates replenishment priority. The system not only takes into account the low level of the shelf, it also takes into account the past sales data in the cloud which contains product information, sales date and time, etc.

While currently store workers have to replenish the storage shelves behind the robot to ensure it always has more bottles to fill the shelves, Telexistence hopes it can automate this part of the job as well. coming.

Tomohiro Kano, General Manager of Store Development Department and Corporate Railway and Franchise Department, FamilyMart, said, “The declining labor force in Japan is one of the major management issues for FamilyMart in order to maintain the stability of store operations. The introduction of Telexistence robots in FamilyMart stores will eliminate the need for store employees to restock beverages in refrigerators, and newly created time can be reallocated to customer service and shop improvement, leading to better store operations.

Telexistence’s goal is to use robots to improve all simple workflows in human society. This company is a small step towards that goal. This initiative is developed by Telexistence on the basis of a partnership with Microsoft Japan and NVIDIA.

In particular, NVIDIA’s GPU-accelerated AI technologies are integrated with hardware developed by Telexistence that enables AI and remote control of robots on the Microsoft Azure platform. NVIDIA and Telexistence have been collaborating since 2017, shortly after Telexistence was founded.

The system is sold through a RaaS business model. FamilyMart does not own the robots, but instead pays for their service in a subscription model. Telexistence remotely monitors the operations of the robots and in the event of a problem, the robots can be recovered and teleoperated remotely

During routine operations, the GORDON AI operates the TX SCARA autonomously. If there is an error or failure such as a dropped or dropped object, or an item that has been misplaced, Telexistence staff in remote locations use VR headsets to take control of the robot and resolve the situation without no interaction from FamilyMart employees on site. .

In a store, each TX SCARA can replace one to three hours of human labor per day.

Telexistence believes that the market potential for TX SCARA is enormous. There are 16,000 FamilyMart convenience stores in Japan alone, in addition to about 40,000 more from other brands.

Next, Telexistence wants to target the 150,000 convenience stores in the United States, where more than half of consumers say they shop there at least once a month.