US retailer Walmart has revealed that it is introducing a new automation system which it says will help staff at its Salem, New Hampshire supercentre “fill online grocery orders faster than ever before”.

In a blog posted last week, Mark Ibbotson, Executive Vice President of Central Operations, Walmart U.S., said that the new “Alphabot” system “will work behind the scenes to make the [online grocery order] process even easier by automatically bringing items from storage to associates [staff] who will consolidate the items in the order”.

According to Ibbotson: “For our pickup associates, that means less time walking the store aisles in search of products and more time ensuring customers are getting the absolute best in fresh produce, meats, etc.”

For the Salem pilot, a 20,000-square-foot extension connected to the store will house the Alphabot system and serve as a dedicated grocery pickup point with “drive-thru” lanes for customers.

Automated mobile carts will retrieve ordered items  and deliver them to four pick stations were Walmart’s “personal shoppers” will then pick, assemble and deliver orders to customers.

“The vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system,” said Ibbotson, “though our personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items.”

Walmart plans to have Alphabot online and running by the end of the year – and it will be powering in-store pickups and home deliveries to customers.

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