The Kroger Co. continues supplementing its network of automated fulfillment centers with smaller “spoke” locations.
America’s largest grocer is adding a spoke facility in Lockbourne, Ohio to extend its fast online delivery capability in Central Ohio, including Columbus. The 61,000-sq.-ft. facility will collaborate with an existing high-tech customer fulfillment center (CFC) hub in Monroe, Ohio to fulfill online orders of fresh food.
The Lockbourne facility will serve as a last-mile cross-dock location that extends the fulfillment network reach to customers up to 200 miles away from the hub. At full capacity, customers in more than 250 Central Ohio ZIP codes will be able to receive online delivery in as quickly as 30 minutes. The facility will employ up to 200 associates.
Introduced in partnership with U.K.-based online grocer Ocado in May 2018, 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 capabilities across the U.S.
Kroger Delivery automated hub and spoke model
CFC represents one of the models engineered for the grocer’s 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.
“We're proud to expand the Kroger fulfillment network in our home state," said Gabriel Arreaga, Kroger senior VP and chief supply chain officer. "The new service is an innovative addition to the expanding digital shopping experience available to Kroger customers. Our delivery business continues to accelerate with the growth of fulfillment and spoke facilities. This expansion will further our commitment to create career opportunities and serve shoppers fresh food fast through interconnected, automated, and last-mile solutions across America.
“When our customers think of food, they think of Kroger, continued Arreaga. "The addition of a spoke facility in the Columbus division is one more state-of-the-art example of how Kroger is fulfilling its commitment to providing our customers anything, anywhere, anytime."
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.