Will a ‘skyscraper’ store change how groceries are delivered in cities?
Grocery stores that manage their back-end operations with busy hives of robots have gone from speculative fiction to reality. One recent entry into the space has made headlines with its plans to build up instead of out.
A startup called Urbx has announced plans to launch a robotic grocer that is 150 feet tall (nearly as tall as an average water tower) and only 1,800 square feet around, according to Grocery Dive.
As planned, the pick and pack duties carried out on the upper floors of the building will be managed by automated robots, which will carry orders down to an area to be collected by delivery people. The startup promises one-hour delivery. At ground floor, Urbx markets will feature a small storefront where customers can order products and have them procured and delivered within five minutes by a robot.
Urbx’s vertical grocery store is hardly the only vision of an automated grocery concept to hit the scene recently.
The automated micro-fulfillment center, Fabric, formerly CommonSense Robotics, features hundreds of robots in a warehouse one-tenth the size of a football field, according to a Marketplace report. Robots navigate shelves stacked with bins to automatically pick and pack orders. As with Urbx’s space efficient layout, the Fabric warehouse is designed to fit into an urban landscape. The startup touts a five-minute time period from when a customer places an order to when the order is ready to be delivered.
While these robot hives are smaller and suited for fulfilling online orders in high-density urban areas, some big name grocers are using robotic fulfillment at a much larger scale.
In the U.S., Kroger has been making big moves in this space. The chain announced in 2019 that it would be partnering with Ocado to build 20 robot hive warehouses in Central Florida and the Mid-Atlantic.
Earlier this month, Kroger opened the first of the facilities in Ohio, according to the Dayton Daily News. The warehouse is able to assemble a 50-item order in six minutes. Manual picking of an order of that size takes an average of 30 to 45 minutes.
- Meet the vertical automated grocery store – Grocery Dive
- Pandemic innovation: Supermarkets invest in robot pickers as online ordering takes off – Marketplace
- Kroger opens first $55 million automated warehouse in Butler County – Dayton Daily News
- Will robotic fulfillment centers reshape Kroger’s business? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a vertically-oriented, automated grocer like Urbx and other automated facilities being able to make good when it comes to fast picking, packing and delivery? Do you consider some of these solutions having greater advantages compared to the others?