Robots to restock shelves in Japanese convenience stores

Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart are rolling out a fleet of AI-driven robots to restock shelves at 300 convenience stores across the country.

The robots, created by Tokyo-based Telexistence Inc, will perform repetitive and tedious tasks such as restocking fridges with bottles and cans, allowing retail staff to focus on interacting with customers and improving store profitability.

Tomohiro Kano, General Manager of the Store Development Department at FamilyMart, said the decline in Japan’s labour population is one of the key management issues for the company, which has over 16,000 stores in Japan.

“The introduction of Telexistence robots into FamilyMart stores will eliminate the need for store employees to replenish beverages in refrigerators, and the newly created time can be reallocated to customer service and shop floor enhancement, leading to higher quality store operations.”

Telexistence has a mission of improving all simple labour workflows in human society with robots, with Jin Tomioka, CEO of Telexistence, stating that the greatest limiting factor for any industry, in any nation, is human resources.

“Especially in developed countries like Japan, the shortage of human labour is rapidly becoming apparent in the retail and logistics industries, which support human life in society.” 

Tomioka said the company plans to bring its automated labour solutions to other regions, such as the United States.

“Telexistence’s robots will become a powerful influence, providing a virtually inexhaustible supply of new labour. The new surplus resources will be appropriately redistributed through market mechanisms, and in the long run, this can lead to the transition of human society to be significantly augmented by automated labour.”

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