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Jewel-Osco opens first micro-fulfillment center

E-commerce facility neighbors Chicago-area supermarket

Albertsons Cos.’ Jewel-Osco food and drug chain has launched an automated micro-fulfillment center (MFC) to fill online grocery orders.

Itasca, Ill.-based Jewel-Osco unveiled the 20,000-square-foot e-commerce facility, located next to its store in Westmont, Ill., on Tuesday in a grand opening event attended by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“We are the first grocery retailer in Illinois to offer this omnichannel solution to our customers,” Jewel-Osco President Mike Withers said in a statement. “The MFC will process orders more efficiently and expeditiously, with all the products our customers expect to find when shopping with us.”

Powered by technology from automation specialist Takeoff Technologies, the MFC is an artificial intelligence-driven rack-and-tote system that prepares grocery orders for delivery or pickup. More than 6,000 totes ferry products from their spaces inside the Takeoff storage system to elevators that move the containers to a decanting area for sorting. Items from the adjacent Jewel-Osco stores also are added as needed to complete customer orders.

Next, ordered products are shuttled to picking stations, where Jewel-Osco associates can fill up to four orders at once. Robots move the completed orders to a separate area for staff to bring to Drive Up & Go curbside pickup customers or third-party delivery services such as DoorDash, Shipt and Point Pick Up.

Pritzker joined Jewel-Osco leadership and local lawmakers for a tour of the Westmont MFC, situated in a former Hobby Lobby store space, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Jewel-Osco hasn’t stopped finding new ways to be there for Chicago-area residents for over a century, and I was proud to join local leaders in kicking off the latest in grocery innovation for Illinois customers in Westmont,” Pritzker stated. “Illinois has a long legacy of leadership in this sector — no surprise given our dominance in agriculture and the ingenuity of our workforce. As our economic recovery continues, Jewel-Osco is helping pave the way to success.”

Serving delivery customers within a 20-mile radius, the Jewel-Osco MFC houses about 6,500 items and can fill roughly 1,000 online orders daily, according to published reports. Parent company Albertsons said Jewel-Osco is slated to open another MFC in Chicago next year with tech partner Takeoff.

“As part of our broader strategic partnership with Albertsons, we are honored to have worked with Jewel-Osco to introduce the first-ever micro-fulfillment cCenter to the Chicago area,” commented Max Pedró, co-founder and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Takeoff Technologies. “Our solution makes online fulfillment faster and more affordable, so that our partners can pass those benefits along to their shoppers.”

In October, Albertsons Cos. CEO Vivek Sankaran said Albertsons plans to open another four MFCs by the year’s end, adding to the three locations already in operation, including two at Safeway supermarkets in South San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

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