Walmart to acquire ASRS maker Alert Innovation

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Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has agreed to acquire Alert Innovation for an undisclosed price. Alert Innovation is a North Billerica, Mass.-based developer of robotic e-grocery fulfillment technologies. Alert Innovation will continue to operate under the Alert Innovation brand based in the Boston area.

Walmart began working with Alert Innovation in 2016 to build custom technology for its micro-fulfillment centers. Walmart said the acquisition will enable it to better leverage its stores for storage and fulfillment and more efficiently fulfill customer orders.

Walmart piloted its first MFC in Salem, N.H. in late 2019 using custom technology from Alert Innovation. The autonomous robot, named Alphabot, can store, retrieve and dispense orders by moving horizontally, laterally and vertically across three temperature zones without any lifts or conveyors. According to Walmart, this provides fewer space constraints inside the MFC and eliminates the need to pause the entire system for bot maintenance.

“I am proud that Alert Innovation is one of the most innovative and capable automation companies in operation today. Our mission to improve people’s lives through innovation will now be dedicated to Walmart customers and associates which is an inspiring undertaking,” said John Lert, Alert Innovation Founder and Executive Chairman.

“We will continue leveraging our development, manufacturing and deployment expertise to enable Walmart to build and scale MFC technology in its stores. With Walmart, we have the opportunity to positively impact millions of lives through the Alphabot System,” said Fritz Morgan, Alert Innovation CEO.

“We are committed to exceeding customer expectations and serving them in new ways, whether it’s in a store, curbside, or at their home,” said David Guggina, senior VP of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S. “Bringing the best of Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will enable us to reach more customers quicker by deploying MFCs with greater speed, providing both an unmatched shopping experience and a competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment.”

Of course, Walmart is no stranger to robotics. It invested in Cruise’s autonomous vehicles for last-mile delivery, recently partnered with Symbotic to deploy automation inside regional distribution centers and is outfitting a new $118 million facility in Canada with robots from GreyOrange.

Walmart also uses Level 4 autonomous trucks from Gatik to automate its middle-mile logistics. In late 2021, Gatik removed the human safety driver behind the wheel of two autonomous trucks operating in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is the home of the retail giant.

Unfortunately, Walmart’s most famous use of robotics ended on a bad note. Walmart in November 2020 abruptly ended a five-year contract with Bossa Nova Robotics, which at the time was developing robots for front-of-store inventory management. When the news broke, Walmart said that it “found different, sometimes simpler solutions that proved just as useful.”

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