An Australian company has developed robots that tell supermarkets when their shelves need restocking

Shelfie the robot scanning the shelves. (Source: supplied)

Sydney-based company Lakeba has developed a robot that will soon be zooming around the aisles of British supermarkets.

Shelfie, as the robot is known, maps the store layout, then scans shelves to measure stock levels. The robot can then automatically send a restock notification to staff when a product is running low.

The system has the smarts to also generate in-depth, longer term insights to “optimise merchandise layouts”.

Shelfie comes in three different physical forms – a standing robot, a flying drone or a handheld device.

A full supermarket-scale inventory takes around three hours to complete. Lakeba director and Shelfie CEO Darren Younger said that retail customers can now measure how fast low stock levels are addressed and how fast new product planograms and ticketing are rolled out.

“We call this the Shelfie Index – a 0 to 100 score based on store stock, and layout. We forecast that beyond optimising existing revenue chains, Shelfie can deliver cost savings of up to $300,000 per store per year,” he said.

“For a grocery retailer operating hundreds of stores it can quickly equate to a sizeable saving, freeing up time and resource to be invested in other operational areas.”

The robot, showcased in the USA at the just-finished National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in New York, will be piloted at the UK supermarket chain Co-Op. The timing of the trial was not disclosed.

Shelfie the robot in standing and drone forms. (Source: supplied)

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said “Shelfie” was a major boost for the industry.

“The Shelfie robot is an innovation developed by Australians that will revolutionise supermarket’s ability to forecast stock requirements,,” he said.

Lakeba – which has offices in Australia, India, Singapore, USA, UK and Italy – collaborated with Design + Industry and Marathon Targets to put the final touches on the robot before its New York debut.

Microsoft Australia retail lead Marcy Larsen said Shelfie was able to perform image capture and data analysis in real-time, courtesy of the company’s cloud-based Azure platform, adding that it had plenty of potential to scale and integrate with even more useful software — such as supply chain management systems and artificial intelligence.

“In the future Shelfie will be integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to automate stock ordering – and Azure’s rich range of machine learning and cognitive services will allow Lakeba to create solutions that will truly transform retail.”

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