Technology

FreshDirect, Fabric Team on Microfulfillment Deal

Proprietary robots to enable faster delivery in Washington, D.C., area
Photograph courtesy of Fabric

The microfulfillment technology company Fabric this week announced its first deployment with a U.S. food retailer, partnering with online grocer FreshDirect in a deal the companies say will provide for two-hour, on-demand grocery delivery in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Fabric, the Israel-based company with U.S. offices in New York formerly known as Commonsense Robotics, said the robotic fulfillment center would begin service later this year in a hub-and-spoke structure supported by FreshDirect’s primary facility in Bronx, N.Y.

“Washington, D.C., has always been an important market for FreshDirect, and we are excited to partner with Fabric to meet the current surge in demand while improving the customer experience,” FreshDirect CEO David McInerney said in a statement. “Fabric’s technology will allow us to turn our existing regional facilities into high-velocity automated distribution centers, speeding our expansion into new markets with two-hour, on-demand delivery.”

The companies said the new upgrades will be rolled out across FreshDirect’s D.C. metro delivery footprint, which spans the Washington, D.C., Silver Spring/Potomac and Vienna/Dulles areas. This service will enable customers to order from a wide selection of fresh food and grocery items within a two-hour window, in addition to the existing next-day service.

Fabric uses proprietary shuttle robots, lifts and software it says can pick grocery orders faster and more efficiently than manual picking, even in confined spaces. It is currently providing service for retailers in Israel and is at work on various deals with U.S. grocers on exclusive deployments and separately on e-commerce facilities providing robotic fulfillment as a service, officials said. The FreshDirect partnership is its first announced deal with a U.S. grocer.

“FreshDirect is the pioneer of grocery e-commerce in the United States,” said Elram Goren, co-founder and CEO of Fabric. “Now with Fabric's robotic microfulfillment technology, purpose-built for on-demand fulfillment, they are positioned to best serve their Washington, D.C., customers profitably and at scale. We are thrilled to announce this strategic partnership as one of the first steps in Fabric's continued expansion across the United States."

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