The Kroger Co. on Tuesday opened its newest Customer Fulfillment Center (CFC) in Groveland, Fla., powered by Ocado Group. The new facility marks Cincinnati-based Kroger's entry into the Florida market with an e-commerce delivery service that combines vertical integration, machine learning and robotics with fast delivery of grocery items and fresh food.
"The Kroger Delivery network combines the efficiency of technology with the experience of our associates to deliver fresh, affordable food, and a consistent and rewarding customer experience," said Gabriel Arreaga, Kroger's chief supply chain officer. "We're proud to launch Kroger Delivery in Florida, a new geography for Kroger and a milestone moment in our history to further build on our success as one of America's leading retailers and e-commerce companies."
The Groveland site is Kroger’s second Ocado automated online grocery warehouse, following the opening of the first in Monroe, Ohio, in April. The CFCs are among 20 planned by Kroger and Ocado in the United States. So far, Kroger has announced 10 CFCs, with sizes ranging from 135,000 to 375,000 square feet. Besides the Monroe and Groveland facilities, they include locations in Forest Park, Ga.; Dallas; Frederick, Md.; Phoenix; Pleasant Prairie, Wis.; and Romulus, Mich., as well as two unspecified sites in the Pacific Northwest and West. Plans call for up to six more CFCs to open across the country in 2022 and 2023.
The Groveland CFC measures 375,000 square feet, carries thousands of grocery products and represents one of the models engineered for the flexible Kroger Delivery network, which will also include smaller automated facilities and “spoke” locations. The CFC can fulfill thousands of orders per day. The Groveland CFC and spoke in Tampa are now open, with the Jacksonville spoke scheduled to open this month.
The retailer said that Kroger Delivery is a vertically integrated network, enabling coverage of up to 90 miles from the hub location in Groveland and significantly more territory when spoke locations, such as Tampa and Jacksonville, are integrated. In these highly automated CFCs, more than 1,000 bots speed around a grid known as The Hive, which contains totes with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders.
As customers' orders near their delivery times, the bots retrieve products from The Hive, which are presented at stations for items to be sorted for delivery, a process governed by algorithms that ensures items are intelligently sorted. 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 optimize delivery routes, considering factors like road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency.
"We're proud to help bring Kroger to Florida with Ocado's state-of-the-art technology," said Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado Solutions. "Kroger and Ocado's unique partnership is opening up new possibilities online for U.S. grocery customers and we can't wait for households across Florida to experience amazing levels of service and freshness online with Kroger Delivery."
In May 2018, Kroger and Ocado formed an exclusive partnership to introduce to the U.S. for the first-time proprietary technology solutions focused on artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and automation, and creative solutions to create efficient fulfillment and delivery capabilities.
"We are excited to bring Kroger's exclusive brands, including Simple Truth, the country's largest natural and organic private label and Private Selection to Florida," said Brandon McBurney, Kroger's general manager of the Groveland Customer Fulfillment Center. "Kroger Delivery will introduce Kroger to new audiences, accelerate our e-commerce capabilities, focus on outstanding customer experiences, and create hundreds of new career opportunities."