Walmart Inc. of Bentonville said Thursday that it will buy Alert Innovation of Andover, Massachusetts, a company that specializes in automated grocery fulfillment systems, as it seeks to improve automation in its distrbution centers and warehouses.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In a news release, Alert Innovation said it has been working with Walmart since 2016 to customize technology for the retailer's market fulfillment centers.
"Our mission to improve people's lives through innovation will now be dedicated to Walmart customers and associates, which is an inspiring undertaking," John Lert, Alert Innovation's founder and executive chairman, said in a news release.
Alert Innovation is the company behind the Alphabot system, which it describes as a "unique automated fulfillment solution that utilizes patented omnidirectional robots in a temperature-controlled system for fresh, efficient, and high-quality grocery fulfillment."
The company began piloting the system in Walmart's first MFC in Salem, New Hampshire, in 2019. It said it will continue to operate in the Boston area under the Alert Innovation brand.
Robots in the system are fully autonomous and able to store, retrieve and dispense orders by "moving horizontally, laterally and vertically across three temperature zones without any lifts or conveyors." Walmart said the system provides fewer space constraints inside its market fulfillment centers and eliminates the need to pause the entire system for bot maintenance.
The move comes as Walmart continues to invest in its warehouses, distribution centers and stores to beef up quick delivery capabilities for e-commerce customers and store pick-up. David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S., said that for customers, the bringing Alert in-house "means orders can be fulfilled quickly and conveniently through pickup and delivery, giving them the items they want, when and where they want them."
Walmart is working with other automation companies, including Symbotic of Wilmington, Massachusetts, to overhaul its logistics network. As of last year, the retailer was using Symbotic's system in 25 of its 42 regional distribution centers.
Symbotic's system uses algorithms to store cases of merchandise using high-speed mobile bots. The system aims to quicken the intake process and improve the accuracy of freight being stored for future orders.