In the past week, Save Mart, Walmart and Kroger have piloted or launched automated technologies that signal a new way of doing business in grocery—and potentially an industry run by robots?
That will hardly be the case, but each technology aims to speed or simplify everyday operations, whether it's delivery, tracking inventory or fulfilling orders. Click through to see how Save Mart, Walmart and Kroger are automating and innovating.
Save Mart Pilots Tally
Last week, the Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart Cos. launched a pilot program in partnership with Simbe to roll out the autonomous inventory robot Tally in three Save Mart stores in the Modesto area; two Lucky California stores in Dublin and San Ramon; and two FoodMaxx locations in Modesto and Tracy.
Tally robots, which can scan up to 30,000 products every day, autonomously audit store shelves, bringing greater visibility to store inventory, streamlining operations for store teams and improving the customer experience by ensuring the products they are looking for are in-stock and in the correct location. Since launching in 2015, Tally has been deployed by more than a dozen leading global retailers across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
“Deepening our commitment to innovation with this pilot program is a reflection of The Save Mart Cos. promise to our customers to ensure the best in-store experiences,” said Hal Levitt, SVP of retail operations.
Walmart Invests in Cruise
Pleased with the results of its contact-free delivery trial with self-driving car company Cruise, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart last week announced it was formally investing in the company, although the size of that investment wasn't disclosed.
Cruise, based in San Francisco, has been working with Walmart since November on a pilot delivery project in Scottsdale, Ariz. Scottsdale-area customers can place an online order from their local Walmart store for contact-free delivery by one of Cruise’s driverless vehicles, which run on a GM-made electric platform.
"The investment will aid our work toward developing a last-mile delivery ecosystem that’s fast, low-cost and scalable," Furner said in a post on Walmart's website. "As delivery has become a staple in our customers' lives, we're focused on growing our last-mile ecosystem in a way that's beneficial for everyone–customers, business and the planet.”
Kroger’s Ocado Facilities Go Online
Also last week, officials of Kroger and Ocado formally acknowledged the launch of the Cincinnati-based grocer’s first two high-tech customer fulfillment centers that officials say will improve order quality and the digital shopping experience by reducing or eliminating issues such as stockouts and handling errors and support faster fulfillment at a lower cost than alternatives such as fulfilling orders from stores or from smaller automated facilities.
The facilities in Monroeville, Ohio, and Groveland, Fla., use Ocado’s proprietary system built on robotics—more than 1,000 robots whizz about a grid storage structure collecting bins and delivering to sophisticated pick stations before returning back onto the grid—with artificial intelligence capabilities guiding and sharpening decisions about, for example, where to return bins and how to pack them.
Kroger and Ocado announced an exclusive U.S. partnership nearly three years ago that called for them to build as many as 20 such fulfillment centers; Kroger officials most recently said they would evaluate performance at the 11 locations so far announced or under construction.