Key Takeaways
  • The Coronavirus pandemic caused times of financial uncertainty, leading to businesses laying off employees to cut costs and maintain revenue.
  • Companies like Walmart began using robots to perform simple tasks and keep operating costs low.
  • Implementing robots in retail stores could become the norm in the future, depending on the success level of current experiments. 
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The Coronavirus pandemic caused financial uncertainty for individuals and businesses. Some companies laid off employees to cut costs and maintain revenue. Although decreasing the workforce was a temporary solution to reducing operating costs, some companies have considered automating their workforce as a permanent alternative. Currently, two businesses in Japan have begun putting shelf scanning robots in their stores.


Why Japan is Using Robots

 

Japan is currently experiencing the effects of an aging population. An aging population is when the country's median age rises due to higher life expectancy and fewer children being born, meaning fewer young people are entering the labor market. 

 

Consequently, due to Japan’s aging population, they have begun experimenting with robots to see if they can help resolve their economy’s labor shortage issue. However, Japanese companies are not the only ones that have begun testing robots in their stores.

 

Walmart Begins Using Shelf Stocking Robots

 

Alongside the Japanese convenience stores, one company in the United States that has also begun using robots to stock shelves is Walmart. With the help of robotics company Bossa Nova Robots, Walmart has already started implementing robots in their stores to scan shelves and update employees in real-time. 

 

Recommended Read: The First Black-Owned Automated Market Competing with Amazon

 

Furthermore, Walmart has teamed up with Artificial Intelligence (AI) supply chain tech group Symbotic. Symbotic will provide robotic solutions and software automation platforms at more than 40 regional distribution centers. Walmart’s technological advancements of introducing shelf scanning robots could pave the way for other companies to also utilize AI, depending on whether these implementations will improve efficiency and profitability.


What Automation Could Mean in the Near Future

 

Soon, the increasing usage of robots could become the new norm depending on how well the implementation process goes. If companies begin seeing improvements in their efficiency and profitability, it could cause more businesses to follow a similar pattern. 

 

robots working in factory warehouse

Image Credit: Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock.com

 

Recommended Read: These Drive-Thru Bots Are Replacing Fast-Food Workers


Benefits of Automation 


As the pandemic resulted in high inflation levels, the cost of living increased. When retail stores have to pay more to their employees each year, their expenses remain high and could cause lower profitability, which is why they typically raise their prices. However, as automation reduces the number of human employees at a store, fewer wages must be paid, making it the cheaper option.

 

welding robots working in warehouse

Image Credit: SasinTipchai / Shutterstock.com

 

Consequently, as companies have to pay less to operate their stores, this could mean lower prices on the goods and services they sell, benefiting the consumer as their cost of living lowers. 

 

Disadvantages of Automation


Although automation promotes efficiency and lowers costs, it also has drawbacks. The main disadvantage of automation is the lower number of jobs available in the labor market. Since many of these robots fulfill basic tasks, a company does not require human workers. 

 

robot applying for job

Image Credit: pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

 

Therefore, if more companies begin implementing the usage of robots in their stores, reducing human jobs is imminent. As a result, the unemployment rate will likely increase as fewer jobs are available in the market. In addition to the number of jobs being lowered, younger workers will find it difficult to enter the workforce as fewer entry-level positions are open to them. 


The Money Wrap-Up

 

Over the years, there have been many technological advancements that have caused our lives to become more accessible and convenient. Now, the latest technological advances have begun changing the way companies operate. Although there are pros and cons to incorporating robots into retail stores, it is too early to tell whether this implementation will have more positive or negative long-term effects.

 

Main Image Credit: Phonlamai Photo / Shutterstock.com

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