Schnucks - Tally.PNG

One of Schnucks’ Tally robots is shown at work in an aisle in one of its stores.

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CHAMPAIGN — Robots will soon be invading the Schnucks grocery stores in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

The chain announced this week that its Tally robot would be brought to an additional 46 stores. The robot rolls down aisles two to three times a day and looks for empty spaces on shelves.

“It looks for holes in the shelves and is then able to alert teammates to fill those holes,” spokesman Paul Simon said. That helps keep items in stock, “so that customers can find the products they’re looking for.”

When the robot spots a hole, it uses the shelf barcode tag to identify the missing item, Simon said.

Schnucks began using Tally in three stores in 2017 and expanded that to 16 the next year.

He said Tally, which was developed by San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics, would be coming to the Champaign, Urbana and Savoy stores later this year or early next year, though not to the Mahomet store.

The robots are more effective than humans at detecting items that are out of stock, the company said, which leads to those items being replenished more quickly. But “this is not replacing teammates” or reducing their hours, Simon said: “This is simply complementing them to help provide our customers with a better shopping experience.”

Simon also said the robots don’t collect any data from customers and will get out of their way.

“It’s very shy,” he said. “If it detects someone in the area, it will stop and pause until the person has left the area. Then it will start up its function again. And if an aisle is very busy, it will move to the next aisle and then come back for the busy aisle later.”