October 28, 2020

Webinar Recap: How Schnucks Uses Robotics & Innovation to Deliver Better Customer Experiences



Essential businesses, like grocery stores, have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. With limited resources and heightened pressure to keep stores cleaner than ever before, grocers and retailers are increasingly looking for new cost-effective solutions that improve upon traditional methods. Robotics is one option that has proven its value during the health crisis, keeping storefronts clean while ensuring employees and customers are safe and healthy. In a recent webinar hosted by Winsight Grocery Business, “How Schnucks Uses Robotics & Innovation to Deliver Better Customer Experiences,” a panel of experts from Brain Corp, Schnucks, and ABI Research discussed the future of robotics in customer-facing businesses, and more specifically, Schnucks’ implementation of BrainOS®-powered robot cleaners in their grocery stores. Rian Whitton, senior analyst at ABI Research, a leading technology firm, kicked things off by giving a general overview of the current state of autonomous mobile robots. Whitton predicted that the adoption of mobile robotics will grow rapidly within the next few years, reaching an estimated 1.1 million robots deployed by 2025—17.3% of which will be in indoor public spaces, like grocery stores and other retail venues. This is due to a combination of factors, including the pressure to compete with highly productive e-commerce companies, increased standards for cleanliness, and the growing availability of AI technology, he said.

Schnucks seeks a better clean

In the quest for cleaner floors and improved labor efficiency, Schnucks, a regional grocery chain based in St. Louis, MO, started looking at robotic cleaners several years ago, said Kim Anderson, Schnucks’ senior director of store operations support. The company had been outsourcing its floor care services to third party services for several years, but found these companies could be difficult to manage and did not provide the level of clean customer expected. So the company made the decision to bring their cleaning program in-house using autonomous cleaners. After doing some research, they found Brain Corp, and began a pilot program in 2019, deploying robots in 28 of their stores. This year, in light of the pandemic, they added 50 BrainOS-powered T380AMR scrubbers, and now have robotic cleaners in more than half of their stores. Here are three key takeaways from Schnucks’ robotics deployment. 1) The robots are easy to deploy -- During the webinar, Dave Steck, Schnucks’ VP of IT infrastructure and app development, emphasized that deployment of BrainOS-powered floor scrubbers required little assistance, if any, from his IT team. They were able to roll out 50 units in a three-week period of time, thanks to the ease of implementation, which required no custom infrastructure or specialized training. Thanks to a superior user interface, employees were able to quickly learn how to use the machines without any technical support, Anderson said. 2) Robotic cleaning performance is better -- With different types of flooring around their stores, the team at Schnucks wanted to seek out a solution that could clean any floor surface thoroughly. A high-quality clean is absolutely crucial for a grocery store at any time, let alone during a global health crisis. The health and safety of staff and shoppers are a top priority for Schnucks. The spotless clean that BrainOS-powered floor scrubbers now provide are much better than what the company was receiving through its third-party cleaners, and Anderson even showed before and after pictures to show the difference. 3) Reporting is key for optimizing usage -- One key benefit of robotic scrubbers is the ability to access cloud-based cleaning performance data. This was a major decision in choosing a BrainOS-powered robotic scrubber, Anderson said. These metrics enable Schnucks’ management to see which stores are using the scrubbers to full capacity, and which stores may need more training assistance, she said. The robots provide other metrics, such as total hours of autonomous usage, total area covered, total routes run, and much more. For Schnucks, reporting was a critical need for their robotic floor care solution to help optimize cleaning performance.

Robots in retail are here to stay

While there likely won’t be robots in every major grocery store in the United States for several years to come, their presence will increase significantly in the near future. With regional grocery chains, like Schnucks, picking up on this new technology, it shows that robotic cleaners aren’t just a fancy trick used by mega-chains to get ahead of the competition. BrainOS-powered floor scrubbing robots have in fact become one of the simplest and most cost-effective cleaning solutions for retailers and with the additional benefits provided, like usage metrics and reliable cleaning, it’s clear that robotics is ready to take on the world of retail. If you’re interested in learning more about robotics in retail, watch the webinar recording, or check out our eBook, “How Robots Help Retailers in Today’s Changing World.”

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Photo by michal dziekonski on Unsplash
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