Robot in retail: How Majid Al Futtaim is leveraging automation to boost efficiency


October 10, 2021 | By Shruthi Nair

UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim has been at the forefront of using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation and computer vision to transform its operations and retail experiences. From deploying autonomous robots at Carrefour’s fulfilment centre in Ibn Batuta Mall to opening the region’s first scan-and-go convenience store in the Mall of the Emirates, the retailer has made significant progress in its digital transformation journey since they first embraced it five years ago.

“Majid Al Futtaim has collaborated with US-based eGrocery innovator Takeoff Technologies to bring the latest robotised picking technology to Carrefour, allowing up to 2,000 items to be picked per hour per automated fulfilment centre. This digitised storage picking technology automates managing orders, significantly reducing the processing time by up to 50%,” said Nalla Karunanithy, Chief Digital Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Retail.

“Additionally, Carrefour boasts a fleet of 12 more Tally Robots across its UAE hypermarkets to assist with stock management and control. Tally robots are equipped with cameras and sensors that make them capable of scanning up to 15,000 products three times a day. They are used for checking for any stock errors, such as out of stock items, price mismatch, wrong barcodes, or stock misplacement. These robots also assist with stock auditing using artificial intelligence, which reduces store workers’ workload, and crucially, mistakes,” he added.

Automation is necessary for optimizing retailers’ operational efficiency and driving consumer purchasing decisions, while also allowing store associates to fulfill their duties faster and focus on where they are needed most — with the shoppers. It can also reduce overhead, minimize touch, cut down on human error and speed up back office functions to keep floor activity rolling with better employee attention and focus.

“In a 2021 survey by Jabil, 73% of large retailers said the importance of using robotics in warehouses or distribution centres has increased due to factors that emerged during the pandemic. The importance of a seamless and contactless in-store shopping experience in the retail sector creates an incredible opportunity for our business to benefit from brand differentiation while building upon the trust of our customers,” he said.

With all of these technologies used within the stores, the question of ‘how much technology is too much’ could easily arise considering it may seem to be intrusive for shopping experiences and customer journeys. Nalla, however, disagrees.

“The question retailers must ask themselves is not how much technology is too much, but instead, how can we effectively harness new technologies to serve our customers better and uplift the customer experience?”

“Already, we see consumers increasingly expecting technology to integrate seamlessly throughout the shopping experience. While it is difficult to predict the endless possibilities this tech-forward world will create, we are preparing for a future where technological automation penetrates the retail landscape for the better,” he concluded.

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