Leroy Merlin experiments with an inventory robot in France

Leroy Merlin works with MCQ-Scan and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lille to experiment with an autonomous robot capable of detecting all kinds of anomaly on the shelf: an absent product, a misplaced product or a price error. Still in prototype state, the device must be tested in a pilot store.

Have an autonomous robot walk around the aisles of a store outside opening hours. This is the project on which Leroy Merlin is working. On the occasion of the Conext exhibition, which is held in Lille from October 17 to 19, 2017, the DIY giant exhibits a prototype of an inventory robot.

 

inventory robot

A tripartite project

The device is one of 16 projects presented by the Picom (Trade Industries Competitiveness Cluster). All come from the New Shopping Experience program which systematically associates a company carrying a technological solution, a sign (and sometimes a laboratory) around a particular case of use.
Here, the sign of the Mulliez family has approached the SME MCQ-Scan and the Ecole polytechnique de Lille. Their collaboration has led to the development of a prototype autonomous robot capable of capturing and processing images.

Detect radiation anomalies

An interface allows programming the robot path through the store. It moves in all directions and is identified by a Lidar. The same interface allows to activate its cameras. The recorded images are then transmitted to servers and analyzed by the algorithms of MCQ-Scan. “The robot will analyze the sales areas and we will retrieve this information to compare it to that of the catalog to identify anomalies, such as a price error, a lack of price, a missing or misplaced product”, explains Christophe Eechaute of the Lille SME.

This information can be viewed on a kind of online dashboard or sent directly as alerts to a sales advisor’s smartphone. The collected images can also be compiled into a “store view” for the plant’s teams. “If a product sells very well in one store but much less well in another located 20 km it can be explained by a merchandising concern.The teams can then analyze this problem and give advice to store staff”, imagine Christophe Eechaute. The “store view” feature can also interest suppliers who will be able to check if their POS is in place.

And why not a drone inventory?

Today, the device is only at the stage of the POC but the goal is to deploy it in the short term in a pilot store. The capture and image processing system has been integrated into a terrestrial robot but it is only one medium among others. MCQ-Scan does not exclude the possibility of implementing it in a drone. “A drone has the advantage of costing less and it is possible to easily program its movement from point A to point B”, explains Christophe Eechaute.