By Doug Donaldson
COVID-19 changed everything—and may have led to a path of better customer service for Pittsburgh-based Busy Beaver Building Centers, which has home improvement centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The pandemic sped up the company’s plans to incorporate technology into its 25 stores, according to Adam Gunnett, director of IT and marketing.
Busy Beaver’s IT and Marketing Director Adam Gunnett stands next to one of the company’s new robots.
As early as 2017, Busy Beaver began evaluating and testing technologies such as robots and electronic tag systems.
Electronic shelf labels let employees know the correct location to stock an item.
“We had interest in those technologies before COVID,” Gunnett says. “And now like other retailers, we face increased wages, the inability to find reliable workers and a shrinking workforce, which has accelerated looking at technology for solutions.”
In fall 2021, the company began a pilot robot program in its Irwin, Pa., location, then spent about six months evaluating the effectiveness of the robots and how well they integrated into store operations. In March 2022, the Badger Technologies robots and a Pricer Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) system were installed in Busy Beaver’s flagship Delmont, Pa., location. This year, those technologies will be rolled out in the company’s Mount Pleasant, Pa., and Calcutta, Ohio, locations.
The biggest, most time-consuming chore these robots perform is scanning a store’s entire inventory. Previously, this task would take about 80 hours, spanning several days and requiring several employees to devote time away from helping customers. The robot can do this task in about two hours.
Employees would only have time to scan inventory once a week. The robot can scan and update inventory every day. With such timely information, Busy Beaver has a better grasp on inventory levels and can tell customers whether a product is in stock or back ordered.