Meet Yigal the robot - Shufersal's shelf re-stocker

Yigal the Sufersal robot

Developed by Israeli startup Trax, the robot checks the shelves for shortages several times a day.

Israel's largest retail chain Shufersal Ltd. (TASE:SAE) is introducing two technology systems made by startup Trax designed to improve the chain's inventory management and efficiency.

Sources inform "Globes" that Shufersal, managed by CEO Itzik Abercohen, has begun a pilot of a robot for managing and monitoring inventory on product shelves in real time, together with a smart system of cameras. Up until now, the monitoring cameras were used in only three branches. Now, sources inform "Globes," the chain is extending the pilot to 15 branches.

Cooperation between Shufersal and Trax, which develops computer vision and data analysis for physical stores, began six months ago, based on Trax's two technologies. The robot, named Yigal, is navigated in the store and physically maps the branch, photographing the categories 2-4 times a day. The data gathered is put on the cloud and undergoes an image identification process, following which the chain receives customer consumption data in real time, including alerting a warehouse about shortages and their location.

The second technology includes stationary cameras installed on shelves designed to improve the availability of products and their display with the right signs in the right location. The cost of each robot is estimated at $20,000, but large-scale deployment and purchase of more units is likely to lower the price.

Advantage: Flexibility in movement

Both the robot and the cameras are capable of providing data about inventory counts and the marking of a shelf about to become empty. The chain plans to upgrade the system later, so that it will be able to receive data about inventory both on shelves and in the warehouse. For Shufersal, the technology shortens the time when products are in short supply on the shelf, and the company believes that it will improve the availability of products by 5%. Because of questions about regulation and privacy in Europe, the robot and cameras do not photograph people.

Trax's is now active in Shufersal's branch in Azrieli in Tel Aviv, while the stationary cameras are installed in three branches: Azrieli in Tel Aviv, Neve Hadarim in Rishon Lezion, and another branch in Rishon Lezion next to the company's management headquarters. Next month, deployment of the stationary cameras will be expanded to 15 more branches, while the robot is still in the adapting and upgrading stage. Nevertheless, the advantage of the robot over the stationary cameras lies in its flexible movement in crowded and non-standard passages, and in the use of shelves that differ from the standard.

Shufersal is currently using this technology mainly for specific categories in which the potential for improving availability is the greatest. For example, the cameras are attached to a shelf of coffee products for which the unit price is higher and availability to the consumer is critical. In addition, the products are relatively expensive, so that in this case, a disappointed customer means a relatively large financial loss for the retailer.

Another category to which the cameras are attached is salty snacks. The volume of these product is fairly high, so the quantity on the existing shelves is smaller than the average quantity sold per day. Turnover on these shelves is high, and demand requires filling them more than once a day.

Shufersal chief operations and supply chain officer David Laron told "Globes" today, "The new technology enables us to manage more efficiently and accurately, with visibility and availability of the store's products. We receive information from the field in real time, and can take immediate action in case of shortages. The shelf arrangement and management of the existing inventory are more accurate.

<Trax, an Israeli-Singaporean company, was founded in 2010 by Joel Bar-El and Dror Feldheim. It currently has 800 employees, including 200 in Israel. The company has raised $200 million, and its value is estimated at $1.1 billion. Trax has 175 active customers in 50 different countries, including global corporation such as Coca Cola and Nestle, and Israeli company Tnuva.

Up until recent years, Trax's main activity was providing services to suppliers. In the past three years, however, it has also begun working with retailers, and has 30 pilots with chains around the world. The first stage is streamlining logistics, but the technology will later enable food chains to profit from the sale of this information to suppliers with which they work.

Shufersal recently installed a development by another technology company - Trigo Vision - involving a pilot store without cash registers or cashiers, similar to the technology used in Amazon Go stores. The company plans to install this technology in all of its 365 branches within 3-5 years.

Incidentally, Shufersal is not the only company installing innovative technologies in its physical stores. Super-Pharm, Israel's largest pharmacy chain, recently reported that it had begun a pilot for a robot pharmacist in its pharmacies. The robot is capable of scanning prescriptions and finding the drugs for customers, thereby shortening the waiting time in the chain's branches. Other chains are using technologies such as self-service check-out stations.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 17, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Yigal the Sufersal robot
Yigal the Sufersal robot
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