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Kroger bolsters fleet of next-gen fulfillment facilities

The Kroger Co. is getting ready to break ground on another new automated fulfillment center — this one will serve the Denver Metro area.

The supermarket giant’s newest customer fulfillment center (CFC), which will be located in Aurora, Col., will be nearly 300,000 sq. ft. and employ up to 400 employees. It will be Kroger’s sixth automated fulfillment center leveraging advanced robotics and other solutions including sorting technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

The technology is powered by U.K.-based online grocer Ocado Group. Since partnering with Ocado in May 2018, Kroger has been creating a delivery network that combines seamless and efficient fulfillment, picking and delivery capabilities.

Specifically, the new facility will support more than 1,000 bots moving across a giant 3D grid, known as “The Hive.” The Hive contains totes filled with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders. As customers' orders near delivery times, the bots retrieve products from The Hive and move them to pick stations where they are sorted for delivery — a process supported by AI algorithms.  

After being packed, groceries are loaded into a refrigerated delivery van that can store up to 20 orders. Machine learning algorithms optimize delivery routes by considering factors like road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency. Drivers may travel up to 90 miles to deliver orders.

"We are thrilled to expand and introduce our innovative Kroger Fulfillment Network to one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and have the opportunity to grow our workforce," said Gabriel Arreaga, Kroger's senior VP and chief supply chain officer. “Kroger… can accelerate its commitment to provide exceptional customer service through our state-of-the-art facility and end-to-end cold solutions, including custom-built refrigerated vans, to ensure our delivery customers receive the freshest products directly to their doorstep…”

Kroger, which operates nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states under two dozen banners, has annual sales of more than $132.5 billion.

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