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Technology firm Telexistence is to install artificial intelligence robots in 300 convenience chain FamilyMart’s sites in Japan.

The TX SCARA is capable of restocking refrigerated shelves with bottles and cans and can be in operation 24/7, replenishing shelves at a pace of up to 1,000 bottles and cans per day, relying almost completely on its AI system (known as ‘GORDON’) to know when and where products need to be placed on the shelves.

According to FamilyMart, the robots allow retailers to “take advantage of the newly created time and economic surplus in the store environment” and enable them to “focus on further improvements for both employees and customers, as well as the profitability of each store”.

Tomohiro Kano, general manager of store development department and railway and corporate franchisee department of FamilyMart, said: “The decline in Japan’s labor population is one of the key management issues for FamilyMart to continue stable store operations. 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.”

CEO of Telexistence Jin Tomioka explained that staff shortages have prompted this innovation. “Currently, 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,” said Tomioka. “We are promoting large-scale production and social implementation of our robots for industries other than factory automation, industries that function as the infrastructure for daily life in society. We also will bring our automated labour solutions to other regions, such as the United States.”

He added: “Telexistence’s robots will become a powerful influence, providing a virtually inexhaustible supply of new labor. 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.”

Telexistence plans to expand to convenience stores in the US where more than half of consumers say they visit one of the country’s 150,000 convenience stores at least once a month.

When asked by ConvenienceStore.co.uk if this initiative would be rolled out to the UK, a Telexistence spokesperson said: “Our technology can be applied in any geography and currently is aimed specifically at the convenience store marketplace. Due to resource constraints, we have not yet explored expanding into Europe or the UK, but we are certainly interested in learning more about the retail market in those countries for future expansion.”

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