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Robotic Grocery Microfulfillment Facilities are on the Rise Due to COVID-19

Posted by: | Posted on: May 21, 2020


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a demand for robotic fulfillment facilities that will support the online food delivery industry as these facilities can pick and handle groceries orders faster and better, S&P Global Market Intelligence reports.

It notes that online grocers like Walmart and Albertsons have accelerated their efforts to automate their online grocery demand by using high-tech centers. Even Amazon.com has reportedly been looking at ways to automate grocery fulfillment and stay competitive in the high-volume grocery industry. According to the S&P Global Market Intelligence, using robotic equipment is 10 times faster than manually filling orders.

How do fulfillment centers work? After an order is placed by the customer robots with totes are deployed to pick requested products and route them to stations then a human selects and bags items for shipping. S&P Global Market Intelligence also says that there is greater accuracy fulfilling orders including providing real-time information about available items.

In its report the company spoke with Steve Hornyak, chief commercial officer with Fabric, a US-Israeli company that builds microfulfillment centers, who noted that 100% accuracy on orders increases customer satisfaction. “If you don’t have chocolate, we won’t show it as an option.”

But humans are still necessary. High preference items like cereal, beauty products, detergent, cleaning supplies, and condiments are in the automated section. Made to order items, and fragile items are in the manual picking area.

The COVID-19 pandemic is good for business, it seems. “All top 100 grocers are looking at microfulfillment automation,” Hornyak reported. In 2019, his company began building a 10,000-square-foot microfulfillment center for a US Southeast grocer for an early July launch.

There is a desire by many grocers to move faster to build microfulfillment facilities with the increasing demand of online orders. Also interviewed in the report was Curt Avallone, chief business officer for Takeoff Technologies, a Massachusetts microfulfillment-center company whose customers include Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons and Australian grocer Woolworths Group. His company has more than 100 deals under contract. And 10 center sites already under active construction. Takeoff’s microfulfillment centers, which can become operational within six months or less, can cost between $3 million and $4 million.

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