- Walmart on Thursday announced it had acquired e-grocery automation firm Alert Innovation, which produces custom-built inventory-handling technology.
- Alert Innovation’s Alphabot system is designed to store, retrieve and dispense orders by using robots that move omnidirectionally without lifts or conveyors — providing fewer space constraints and making the tech easier to scale, according to the release.
- The retail giant said it will work with Alert on "scaling their capabilities," noting the technology will speed pickup and delivery for customers. Financial details were not disclosed.
The retail giant said the Alphabot technology will allow it to leverage its massive store footprint — 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population — for storage and fulfillment.
The acquisition of Alert is part of Walmart’s plan to expand technology throughout its operations and create the “next generation of fulfillment centers.” Walmart has worked with Alert since 2016 to customize automation for its grocery micro-fulfillment operation and began piloting the Alphabot in 2019.
“Bringing the best of Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will enable us to reach more customers quicker by deploying [micro-fulfillment centers] with greater speed, providing both an unmatched shopping experience and competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment,” David Guggina, senior vice president of Innovation and Automation at Walmart U.S., said in a statement.
Last year, Walmart announced it would add automated micro-fulfillment centers to “dozens” of stores, incorporating technology from providers like Dematic, Fabric and Alert. It said at the time that it would test micro-fulfillment center solutions inside stores as well as in buildings adjacent to them.
Walmart has ramped-up efforts to scale automation across its supply chain in recent months. In May, the retail giant signed an agreement to deploy Symbotic’s end-to-end automation system across all 42 of its regional distribution centers and recently took an 11.1% stake in the AI company.
Other retailers have also worked to bring robotics capabilities in-house. Amazon capitalized on its acquisition of Kiva Systems a decade ago to build out its robotics division, Amazon Robotics. The e-commerce giant now has “more than a dozen types of robotic systems” installed across its facilities, according to a blog post.
Grocery Dive's Jeff Wells and Sam Silverstein contributed to this story.