TOKYO — Japan’s FamilyMart has begun using robots to clean floors as the nation’s second-largest convenience store chain faces a labor shortage.

The robots will be rolled out at 300 directly run stores nationwide by the end of February. The move is a first for major convenience stores in Japan, according to the company.

FamilyMart began introducing the robots at some stores in late January and will make them available to franchise locations for a monthly fee from April onward.

Each robot cleans the floor five times a day — a task that store staffers do three times a day for a total of about an hour. This will free up time for employees to do such tasks as stocking shelves and training.

“As the workforce decreases, we would like to coexist with robots in order to run stores with a small number of people,” Tsuneo Murai, a managing executive officer at FamilyMart, told reporters Feb. 6.

Each robot also carries around items for sale and has a monitor that displays product information and ads.

It is equipped with 20 or so sensors and plays messages as it operates, to prevent collisions with customers and shelves.

No major problems have been reported since deployment began, though there were incidents of children chasing the robot in testing.

The company plans to add AI cameras to the robots to help study ways to improve store management, Murai said.

Extracted in full from: