Robots in your supermarket?
Our expert's opinion
"The next level of digitalization: Robots. To explore robotic solutions, Ahold Delhaize has asked the Dutch Research Center RoboValley to conduct a study and build new prototypes. Several things will be tested such as computerised shelves, the interaction with humans in unpredictable environments, image-recognition and how robots can execute repetitive taskes and handle delicate products like fruit and vegetables. These robotic solutions have the purpose to make shopping faster for the customer because of more efficient warehouses and a better optimalization of the supply chain.
As understood, AI and digitalization are becoming very important in supply chain. The expectations are high and hopefully the return of investment can be measured soon. All these new things seem interesting and cool, but how sure are we about the fact it's not just a hype but really the future? And besides that: what about the small retail companies that can't afford big investments in AI technology and digitalization?"
- Yenthe Huysmans, Associate Consultant
Ahold Delhaize expands into robotics
Ahold Delhaize and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands agreed on a four year partnership to conduct a robotics and artificial intelligence research program. This also includes a test site, which is to be launched at the start of 2019.
Robo retail incoming?
In the Dutch research center RoboValley, a team of scientists, students and start ups will explore robotic solutions to apply throughout the retail supply chain. Besides that, they will build and test new prototypes. Martijn Wisse, Director of TU Delft Robotics, declares that scientists will study how robots are trained best, how they can execute repetitive tasks and how robotic grippers can handle delicate produces like fruit and vegetables. Besides that, they will seek to improve image-recognition of products and packaging. The cooperation wants to computerise shelving: racks should show availability of products or even offer advice on wine choice for a dish. Finally, it is important to consider how robots can safely interact in unpredictable environments shared with humans.
More efficient last mile
Thanks to scientific development, customers will be able to do their everyday shopping much faster, says Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller: warehouses will become more efficiently and the last mile of the logistics chain will also be optimized. The number of packages that have to be delivered every day increases at a steady pace and the customer has high expectations for the delivery. Artificial intelligence enables routes to be planned efficiently or automatically.
In March 2018, research company IDC indicated that retail companies would, in just this year, invest about 2,76 billion euros in artificial intelligence. Shortly after, Ahold Delhaize decided to collaborate with the ICAI (Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence), launching its own AIRLab. This industrial lab conducts research into the responsible use of algorithms. These algorithms can be used to make product recommendations to consumers or to create transparent AI technology for the coördination good flows.