Technology is in the process of completely transforming all aspects of 4 industries – construction, medicine, retail, and transport – with a significant reduction in the need for human labor. Here is the impact on the Retail Industry:

  • Product manufacture (including food preparation) is being automated, using such technologies as robotics, CAD, and additive (3D or 4D) manufacturing. Many products are being customized to specific customer specifications.
  • The supply chain that transports products to warehouses and onward to stores or customer locations will be automated by the use of autonomous robots, cars, trucks, trains and ships – with tracking based on paperless blockchains.
  • Fully-automated warehouses are already in use, which replace workers with robots and conveyor belts to stock and retrieve products, and to fill orders
  • Retail stores are changing their primary functions from the traditional look-touch-buy to look-touch-pickup (soon with the use of augmented reality technology), with ordering and payment via the internet. For groceries, look-touch-buy is being achieved without cashiers or sales staff or couriers. Most products sold on the internet will be delivered directly to customers’ homes by autonomous systems (vehicles or drones or robots).
  • Customer support is using AI to handle automatically the majority of queries and concerns, while in-store support (including restaurant wait staff and hosts) will be provided by robots.

The number of jobs in the retailing process is being significantly reduced. There is already limited need for cashiers, sales staff, and warehouse workers. Fast food workers and restaurant wait staff will be replaced by robots. Supply chain workers (such as truck drivers and dispatchers and document handlers) will no longer be needed. This is already starting in a few places, but, as the cost of the new technologies drop (which will happen at an accelerating rate), expect much of this to be standard in 5-10 years (and earlier if the minimum wage keeps increasing). 



Shelf-scanning robots and drones (Retail – 2019-09 – ZDNet)

Warehouse robots make same-day delivery possible (Retail/Warehousing – 2019-07 – ZDNet)

A Mini Bakery that is actually a robot bakery (Retail/Food – 2018-10 – ZDNet)

Future use of robots in the home (Retail/Home – 2018-04 – ZDNet)



Softbank to open a cafe run by Pepper robots (Retail/Restaurant - 2019-09 - ZDNet)

Softbank Robotics is developing a Tokyo cafe that will be run by its humanoid robot Pepper. Pepper Parlor will use both human and robot staff, and is set to open in December 2020. Pepper was developed for SoftBank by Aldebaran, a French robotics company specializing in emotionally intelligent humanoids that can function in unstructured environments like homes, shops, and specialized care facilities.

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A team of robots fulfills an order in 1 hour (Retail/Order Fulfillment - 2019-04 - ZDNet)

By harnessing networks of tiny automated hubs, micro-fulfillment could enable retailers to store their goods in the hearts of cities while still benefiting from the efficiency of automation. CommonSense Robotics has achieved its first 1-hour fulfillment delivery in partnership with an Israeli health and beauty retailer.

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Walmart to use nearly 4,000 more robots in stores (Retail/Stores - 2019-04 - Fox Business)

Walmart is adding >3,900 robots in stores to help monitor inventory, clean floors and unload trucks, including 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 300 additional shelf scanners, 1,200 unloaders and 900 new pickup towers.

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FedEx partners with Walmart, Pizza Hut to test last-mile delivery robot (Retail/Courier - 2019-03 - Reuters)

This summer, FedEx Corp plans to test a robot to handle home deliveries for partners ranging from Walmart Inc to Pizza Hut. The battery-powered robot will look like a cooler on wheels, and be developed by DEKA Development & Research Corp, travelling at a top speed of 10 mph.

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500 robots infiltrate US grocery stores to identify safety hazards (Retail/Store Safety - 2019-01 -

US GIANT/MARTIN’S and Stop & Shop grocery stores will deploy nearly 500 autonomous robots after successful pilot runs that improved store safety and efficiency. The robots identify safety hazards such as liquid, powder, and bulk food spills, and then apply corrective actions.

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A robotic bartender who serves drinks ordered through a phone app (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - Reuters)

The Cyberdog in Prague features a robotic bartender who serves drinks ordered through a phone app. Its red robotic arm picks among seven wines on offer in a cool box. It then opens the bottle and pours up to four glasses at a time. Next it lifts the glasses on a tray that travels overhead to the customers’ table, then lowers the load so people can pick up their glasses.

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Robots are cooking in fast food restaurants (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - BBC)

A review of the use of robots in food preparation.

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Amazon and Walmart add more robots, but insist they won’t terminate jobs (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - FastCompany)

Use of robots in distribution and order fulfillment centres, retail stores, and customer delivery. Companies say automation will lead to new jobs, but critics worry about phased-out humans. Quote “This robot can do in about 2.5 hours what it was taking an associate around 2 weeks …”

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Postmates has launched a delivery robot that will bring lunch to your door (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - MIT Technology Review)

Postmates, the logistics firm, has unveiled a robot (‘Serve’) that will deliver groceries/lunch in Los Angeles. Serve, which looks like a lunchbox on wheels, will travel along sidewalks at walking speed, carrying up to 50 lbs. Serve travel most of the way in a Postmates car before taking the delivery to the customer’s door. 

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Burger restaurant has fully-automated kitchen (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - BBC Future)

Creator, a new restaurant in San Francisco, uses two family-car-sized robots, churning out 120 burgers/hour. They grind meat, shape burgers, slice tomatoes, grate cheese, and dispense mustard. Each burger can be customized with different sauces, cheeses and toppings, and is precision grilled. Each robot has 350 sensors, 50 actuators, and 20 computers.

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On-line order fulfillment centre can process 65,000 orders/week (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-12 - PC Mag)

UK’s Ocada Technology operates an automated grocery order fulfillment center that uses over 1,000 made-in-Britain robots to pick a 50-item order in 5 mins from a 50,000 menu of items. The battery-operated, orchestrated robots move, at 18 mph, on a vast grid, where each location contains a stack of storage bins. Bins are brought to pick stations to fulfill a customer order. (Watch the video above.)

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Amazon is hiring fewer workers this holiday season, a sign that robots are replacing them (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-11 - Quartz)

Amazon staffing for the holidays is 20,000 less than for 2017. This may be due to increased automation in its warehouses, where a robot can handle in 15 minutes the sorting, picking, packing, and shipping that used to take human workers an hour or more to complete.

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Robot is chef at a new burger joint (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-06 - FastCompany)

Creator, a new San Francisco restaurant, uses a robot to slice buns, add condiments, prepare and add fresh toppings, grill the meat, creating a fully prepared hamburger–all without any human intervention.

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A British supermarket is using greater than 1,000 robots to make online grocery shopping faster (Robotics/Automated Warehouse - 2018-05 - The Verge)

Ocado, a British online-only supermarket, has created a warehouse, involving a hive-grid-machine with over one thousand robots, each the size and shape of a washing machine, that lift, move, and sort groceries. The operation will process 3.5 million items or around 65,000 orders every week.

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11 jobs teens are about to lose to robots (Robotics - 2018-05 - ZDNet)

The 11 jobs are Bellhop, Barista, Pizza delivery driver, Line cook, Security guard, Lifeguard, Cashier, Host, Landscaping, Pizza chef, and (a stretch) dogwalker.

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Robot helps wait staff by bringing food to the tables (Robotics/Restaurants - 2018-03 - FastCompany)

The Kang Nam Tofu House in Milpitas, California, is the first in the world to use a robot to bring food and bills to tables, acting as an assistant to, rather than replacing, human servers, and allowing them to focus more on customer service, Penny is a small, pedestal-shaped robot designed to navigate in a restaurant’s crowded, narrow spaces, using sensors to avoid any obstacles. After all table and kitchen locations are programmed in, the robot makes a map of the restaurant.

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Miso Robotics gets VC funding for its burger-flipping robot (Robotics/Food Service - 2018-02 - ZDNet)

Miso Robotics, the creator of a burger flipping robot named Flippy, announced $10 million in Series B financing. The size of the $3 trillion global prepared foods industry, coupled with rising minimum wages, has prompted a rush to create automation solutions in fast food. Flippy is a lightweight industrial robotic arm with a spatula for an end effector and is now just flipping burgers. But its AI can learn to adjust cooking duration, and ensure perfect production. A robot costs about $60,000, and will soon do more, like toasting buns and grilling onions.

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Robot fired from Scottish grocery store for poor performance (Robotics - 2018-01 - TechRepublic)

A shop robot named Fabio was recently fired from an Edinburgh supermarket, Margiotta, after failing to perform in a helpful manner and confusing some customers. The robot was unable to assist customers in finding the products they were looking for, and many customers ended up going out of their way to avoid it. Fabio was a custom version of SoftBank’s Pepper robot, programmed by Heriot-Watt University to be able to find certain product SKUs in the store.

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