Wakefern Food Corp, the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the US, has partnered with Takeoff Technologies to launch an automated micro-fulfillment centre (MFC).
Aims to increase speed, lower costs and improve the customer experience
The MFC has been developed in Clifton, NJ, enhancing the retailer’s existing online shopping platform, ShopRite from Home. Wakefern was one of the first food retail businesses to enter the online channel in the US, offering both store pickup and delivery options from most of its 353 stores. The partnership, optimising Takeoff Technologies’ hyperlocal fulfillment technology, should help it to increase speed, lower costs and improve the customer experience. The MFC will serve selected ShopRite stores operated by Wakefern member, Inserra Supermarkets, in North Jersey and New York. Takeoff and Wakefern have an agreement in place to open additional sites in the future.
Optimising robotics and automation
Over the last year, Takeoff Technologies has emerged as one of the leading companies in this area. It has partnered with several retailers in the US including Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons and Sedano's Supermarkets. It has developed a scalable model for retailers through optimising robotics and automation which can assemble orders of up to 60 grocery items in minutes. Its solution, which operates from a footprint of around 10,000 sq ft, is reported to offer retailers a much lower cost-to-serve than other ecommerce platforms, including in-store picking, dark store and centralised fulfillment.
Robotics being used to drive operational efficiencies
Retailers are increasingly looking at automated fulfillment solutions to improve the efficiency of their ecommerce operations. Walmart is partnering with Alert Innovation to pilot an in-store robotic picking system for grocery ecommerce orders. Kroger has announced a strategic partnership with Ocado which will see them jointly develop up to 20 automated fulfilment centres for grocery ecommerce in the US. Online specialist, Boxed.com has introduced an autonomously guided vehicle (AGV) into its Dallas distribution centre as an alternative to a large-scale conveyor-belt.
As the channel becomes a larger part of their businesses, scaling profitably is a major focus for retailers. In the US, a large ecosystem has developed, of both established and startup companies, offering a range of ecommerce solutions to retailers. Over the next few years, we expect to see more strategic partnerships and acquisitions in this space as food retailers seek to bring new capabilities into their businesses.
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