Some Giant Eagle grocery stores are employing a unique method for monitoring inventory: a shelf-scanning robot named Tally. The slender, white, five-foot-tall machine, developed by San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics, has been gliding the aisles of the Aspinwall Giant Eagle for nearly a year now.
"We see people taking selfies with Tally," said Giant Eagle spokesperson Jannah Jablonowski. "You see a lot of kids that are shopping with their parents ... either they love it or they're a little bit nervous and apprehensive."
Tally's sides are lined with cameras and sensors that detect what products need restocking. While traveling a pre-programmed path through the store, it collects data on what products are running low. Tally pings that information to employees who can restock.
It's a slow-moving robot, and if a person or object gets in its path, it has a few options.
"Instead of running straight into [someone], Tally waits and beeps a little bit to make its presence known," Jablonowski said. "It will either go around if it can, or if it's a total roadblock Tally would just turn around and continue to the next aisle and come back to the unfinished portion of this aisle."
According to a study by the IHL Group, a research and advisory firm that serves the retail and hospitality industries, retailers face $1 trillion in annual loses due to out-of-stock items. Jablonowski said in the store where Tally has been operating in longest, the company has seen a "pretty significant" increase in the rate at which items are restocked.
Tally is only in three Giant Eagle stores right now: the Aspinwall Market District, one in the Akron-Canton region of Ohio, and a third near Cleveland. Jablonowski said rollout has been deliberately slow, so the chain can closely monitor how Tally is doing and how customers are reacting.
"We're really excited to free up some hours from team members, to do more guest service-oriented tasks and interact with our customers," Jablonowski said. "We're definitely seeing some solid improvement in all the locations so far."