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Sam’s Club brings inventory scanning to floor-scrubbing robots

Sam’s Club brings inventory scanning to floor-scrubbing robots

Sam’s Club is adding aisle scanning functionality to robotic floor scrubbers already deployed at all of its 600 stores.

Plans call for Sam’s to begin installing Brain Corp’s Inventory Scan towers onto the fleet of Tennant Co. autonomous scrubbers powered by Brain’s software, the companies said Thursday. San Diego-based Brain, which specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) for robotics, noted that the rollout with Sam’s marks its largest and fastest technology deployment and the first commercial application of Inventory Scan.

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The cloud-connected Inventory Scan tower will allow the scrubbing robots to gather data as they travel the aisles of Sam’s Clubs. Reports are then sent to club managers to provide updates on pricing accuracy, planogram compliance, stock levels and product localization. Sam’s and Brain said the scanning capability replaces time-consuming manual processes and helps reduce waste and inventory loss. (For a video of the robots at work, click here.)

“Sam’s Club is hyper-focused on making sure our members have a seamless shopping experience, so any time-saving innovation we can implement is significant. By adding Inventory Scan to our current fleet of robotic scrubbers, we obtain critical inventory data that previously was time consuming to obtain,” Todd Garner, vice president of in-club product management at Sam’s Club, said in a statement. “This intelligence allows us to proactively manage our clubs in an efficient manner. Inventory Scan assures items are available and easy to locate in the club, freeing up time for our associates to focus on members and the shopping experience they deserve.”

Related: Walmart to expand in-store use of robots, automation

Brain Corp

Sam’s Club brings inventory scanning to floor-scrubbing robots

The Inventory Scan towers, made by Tennant and powered by the BrainOS, collect data on pricing accuracy, planogram compliance, stock levels and product localization.

Inventory Scan uses computer vision and analytics technologies to capture inventory and store-mapping information. On-shelf data is collected in real time, providing the retailer with “smart” inventory management and operations, according to Brain. The Inventory Scan towers are powered by the BrainOS AI-driven operating system and manufactured by Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Tennant.

“This latest iteration of our valued and longstanding partnership with Sam’s Club marks the beginning of realizing the next phase in our company’s vision,” Brain Corp CEO Eugene Izhikevich commented. “We are actively taking BrainOS-powered robots from primarily task-oriented machines to in-store data acquisition platforms, able to deliver actionable insights on inventory availability, planogram compliance and more. This adds significant ROI for retailers.”

On Thursday, Tennant introduced the Inventory Scan-equipped autonomous floor scrubbers as the company’s first multi-use solution.

“Inventory Scan fills an enormous AI and data-process gap for retailers by providing an effective and reliable solution for capturing high-quality inventory and store-mapping data,” Tennant President and CEO Dave Huml stated. “It also eliminates the need for potentially disruptive infrastructure, like shelf cameras and drones.”

In October 2020, Brain announced that Sam’s Club would start adding 372 new Tennant T7AMR floor scrubbers to its clubs, which would give the retailer robotic scrubbers at all of its locations. Sam’s also expanded a pilot for the scrubbers to use Brain’s accessory for localizing and analyzing shelf inventory, which became Inventory Scan. Brain has been working with Sam’s parent Walmart since 2018, and in December of that year the retail giant said it would grow the 100-plus BrainOS-powered floor scrubbers already in its stores to 360 by the end of January 2019.

“By adding data-collection functionality to our AMR floor scrubbers and integrating with a retailer’s existing inventory management system, we can meaningfully improve how retail stores operate,” Huml added. “Inventory Scan allows retailers to be more efficient by minimizing the need for labor-intensive, manual approaches and helps ensure shelves remain stocked. Our vision is that data collection and floor care will become fully automated so that our customers can focus on managing their businesses and meeting the needs of their customers.”