The Kroger Co., opened a new, robot-powered fulfillment center in Dallas Thursday designed to expand the retailer’s grocery delivery capabilities in the area, the company said.
The 350,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center joins six existing facilities around the country, with more than a half dozen of them planned in other cities.
Cincinnati-based Kroger’s high-tech fulfillment centers sound a bit like something out of a futuristic movie: They’re packed with more than 1,000 bots, zipping around giant 3D grids, all powered by a proprietary control system. The grid, known as The Hive, contains totes packed with products for customer orders. Bots retrieve products from The Hive and deliver them to “pick stations” where the items are sorted for delivery, “a process governed by algorithms that ensure items are intelligently packed,” the company said in a statement.
That packing process ensures that fragile items don’t get crushed, bags are evenly weighted and each order is optimized to fit in the lowest number of bags, the company said.
At the centers, refrigerated vans can hold up to 20 orders for delivery. Drivers may travel up to 90 miles from the fulfillment centers to make their deliveries, the company said.
In addition to the bots, more than 500 workers are employed at the fulfillment center.
The new Dallas facility will collaborate with Kroger spoke facilities in Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, Kroger said.
“East spoke facility will serve as a last-mile cross-dock that will enable Kroger Delivery to expand its services to more customers,” the company said.
The technology in the fulfillment centers is powered by Ocado Group, Kroger’s U.K.-based tech partner.
In June, Kroger reported its digital sales had declined 6% as consumers returned to in-store shopping.
But the retail giant said it expected that decrease and that it was working to grow its personalized marketing offerings, loyalty club, fulfillment centers and delivery program.
“As a result of these initiatives, we grew digitally engaged households during the quarter, and we would expect digital sales to accelerate as the year progresses,” Gary Millerchip, Kroger’s CFO, told analysts, according to a transcript from financial services site Sentieo.