A tiny Cincinnati suburb will be the site of Kroger’s first fully automated warehouse, thanks to a $55m partnership with UK-based robotic fulfillment company Ocado.
Kroger plans to expand this first automated warehouse into 20 cutting-edge facilities across the country in a race to out-stock its rivals Amazon and Walmart.
Robo-sheds, roll out!
Kroger and Ocado will construct their first facility, a 335k-square-foot project in the suburbs north of Kroger’s Cincinnati headquarters.
Ocado’s system consists of a series of “sheds” that house packing robots. A central control system coordinates the individual robots over a massive grid of as many as 250k individual boxes.
By processing 3m routing connections per second, the robots can pack 50-item grocery orders in less than 5 minutes.
The grocer’s aisle is going to the bots
Kroger is moving fast to catch up to industry leaders Amazon and Walmart as the three warehouse warriors compete to carve out a chunk of the $800B US grocery market, only 1% to 4% of which is sold online.
Amazon already employs 100k robots across 175 different fulfillment centers, and Walmart partnered with a startup called Alert Innovation to develop its automated “Alphabot” system.
Kroger paid $248m for a minority stake in Ocado in May, guaranteeing exclusive rights to use the company’s technology in North America. Now that the partnership has hit the warehouse running, it plans to open 20 facilities in the next 3 years.