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09/16/2022

Kroger extends digital delivery reach to Alabama

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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fulfillment facility
Kroger is using high-tech facilities to support fast delivery.

Kroger Co. is opening a new fulfillment facility to enable fast online delivery in Birmingham, Ala.

America's largest grocery retailer is adding a delivery spoke facility in Birmingham. Working in conjunction with nearby fulfillment centers, Kroger’s online delivery service will now reach customers in the greater Birmingham area.

The approximately 50,000-sq.-ft. Birmingham facility will work in conjunction with the Kroger Atlanta fulfillment center, increasing the retailer’s delivery network's reach to customers up to 90 minutes from the hub.  

Kroger fast delivery model
The expansion to Birmingham represents an extension of a partnership between Kroger and U.K.-based online grocer Ocado Group, Introduced in 2018, the partnership leverages a fast delivery “hub and spoke” model relying on a leading-edge automated warehouse concept known as a customer fulfillment center (CFC).

The CFC model combines vertical integration, machine learning, and robotics with affordable and fast delivery service for fresh food. CFC facilities leverage proprietary technology solutions focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robotics and automation to create more seamless and efficient fulfillment, picking and delivery capabilities for enhanced digital commerce

CFCs serve as hubs for the flexible, vertically integrated Kroger Delivery network, which also includes smaller automated facilities and spoke locations. In CFCs, more than 1,000 robots traverse giant 3D grids, orchestrated by proprietary air-traffic control systems in the unlicensed spectrum. The grid, known as The Hive, contains totes with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders.

As customers' orders near their delivery times, the robots retrieve products from The Hive, which are presented at stations for items to be sorted for delivery via an algorithmic sorting process. For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted, and each order is optimized to fit into the fewest number of bags, reducing plastic use.

Once completed, orders are loaded into a temperature-controlled Kroger delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Machine learning algorithms dynamically optimize delivery routes, considering factors like road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency. Drivers may travel up to 90 miles with orders from facilities to make deliveries.

"Kroger Delivery starts by bringing the shopping experience to wherever our customers are, whether they are using the Kroger app or browsing our weekly ad at Kroger.com. Here, customers can access our seamless experience that promises an extensive assortment, thousands of digital coupons, and an entirely personalized shopping trip," said Bill Bennett, Kroger VP and head of e-commerce. "Through this zero-compromise service, customers can get fresh, affordable groceries brought to their door through a best-in-class white glove delivery experience, enabled by our refrigerated trucks, and amazing trained drivers. This cutting-edge technology sets a new unmatched standard for grocery delivery."  

Kroger currently operates customer fulfillment centers in Monroe, Ohio; Groveland, Fla.; Forest Park, Ga. (Atlanta); Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and Dallas. The company plans additional customer fulfillment centers in California; Frederick, Md.; Phoenix; Romulus, Mich. (Detroit); Cleveland; Charlotte, N.C.; Aurora, Colo. (Denver); as well as South Florida and the Northeast.

Based in Cincinnati, Kroger operates 2,800 stores, including more than 100 stores in Southeast Texas and Louisiana, under a variety of banners across the U.S., including Kroger, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith's, King Soopers, Fry's, QFC, City Market, Owen's, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker's, Gerbes, Harris Teeter, Pick 'n Save, Metro Market, and Mariano's.