The leading US food retailer, HEB, is partnering with Swisslog to deploy several automated micro fulfillment centres (MFC) to support its curbside pick-up and delivery business.
Rapidly increasing interest in MFC
Interest in MFCs continues to grow in the US, with several retailers partnering with a range of startups and established companies to test and deploy. Takeoff Technologies has emerged as one of the leading companies, partnering with several retailers including Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize and Wakefern in the US, while also signing multiple deals internationally. Walmart US is working with Alert Innovation, Meijer has partnered with Dematic and FreshDirect has partnered with Fabric. Commenting on the deal, Mitch Hayes, vice president of ecommerce and retail, Swisslog Logistics Automation, Americas, stated,
”COVID-19 and anticipated behavioral changes have created increased urgency around the need for automation within many grocery operations. E-grocery automation is no longer an option…it's a requirement for survival and continued growth."
Better support channel economics
MFCs can help retailers build a profitable model for grocery ecommerce. They will help HEB to streamline fulfillment, enabling it to meet the growing demand for its online grocery service, without impacting the in-store customer experience. Although the US grocery ecommerce channel was growing at pace, it has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with sales expected to almost double this year.
Established automation operator
With more than 2,000 installations globally, Swisslog has significant experience in multiple flexible, scalable and modular automation technologies. The MFCs will feature AutoStore empowered by Swisslog's SynQ software and pick stations. This goods-to-person solution is designed to deliver a flexible automation solution where density, operator productivity and lead time are important factors.
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