Price and inventory management with robotic support
by Matthias Groß (exclusively for EuroCIS.mag)
The tasks that employees have to perform in stores are many and varied. Any methods that save time are welcome. This is where collaboration between humans and machines often comes into play.
Adapta Robotics has developed a robot that helps employees with price and inventory management. CEO Mihai Craciunescu told us how the robot ERIS can be put to use.
Mihai, you designed a solution to help brick-and-mortar retailers. What do you have on offer?
We have launched ERIS: a robot that is able to scan shelves, detect wrong labels and check for out-of-stock items. In order to do that, ERIS (short for Effective Retail Intelligent Scanner) can build a panoramic image of the scanned shelf. After ERIS detects a label, it can check whether the price displayed on the label is correct or not. If not, you have the opportunity to print a new label right there and then using the robot itself.
ERIS will also automatically check the on-shelf availability of products, and if a product is missing on the shelf, it will send an alert directly to the responsible team. In-store staff can then replenish out-of-stock items, thus avoiding customer dissatisfaction. All in all, ERIS is a tool meant to facilitate shelf auditing while offering employees a method of resolving those tasks with minimal effort.
What’s the technology behind ERIS?
On ERIS’ vertical column there are 16 high-resolution cameras plus several depth sensors. We use custom networks for recognition, detection, and classification. With the help of AI algorithms, the images are evaluated and corresponding alerts are generated. On an integrated display, employees can view and edit notifications and print labels. ERIS can scan both paper and electronic labels and is equipped with label printers facilitating the printing and replacement of paper labels.
Many strive to automate technologies as much as possible. Is ERIS fully autonomous?
No, it is not. That was on purpose. A fully autonomous robot is more expensive. We wanted to develop an affordable solution that is able to offer a big advantage to retailers of all sizes. Being a semi-autonomous robot, a staff member has to operate it. And the amount of time saved is significant. The manual scanning of a shelf can take up to one or two hours. With ERIS, you can do it in five minutes. The return on investment is much faster with a semi-autonomous or hybrid solution than with a fully automated solution. ERIS supports solving retail industry shortcomings by using artificial intelligence and being operated by humans.
Do you have plans for a more advanced automation?
Yes, we also plan to build a fully autonomous version for larger companies (which can afford it) and where it makes more sense to be used.
Is ERIS already in use?
It is. We are currently cooperating with Carrefour Romania: the first version of ERIS being used inside their stores. Our plan is to expand to the rest of Europe and the USA.
Does a store need to do any preparations before it can use your system?
ERIS is basically plug&play. But, of course, we need access to the store’s ERP system to let the robot know the correct price of a product. And the more tasks you want ERIS to do, the more information it needs from the store’s system. Once we have that access and data, ERIS can easily kick off and start scanning the store.