Robots are poised to enter the grocery scene in a brand-new way with the launch of Takeoff Technologies' "robotic supermarket," of which Miami, Fla.-based Sedano's Supermarkets will be the trailblazer.
Javier Herran, chief marketing officer for Sedano’s, said the retailer was excited to be at the "forefront of this groundbreaking robotics solution."
Takeoff''s Micro Fulfillment Center technology can reportedly sort online grocery orders of up to 60 items in minutes and has one-eighth the footprint of a typical supermarket's operations. The company counts among its investors former Ahold USA CEO James McCann, who is a member of its advisory board.
Sedano's is set to open the fulfillment center serving 14 Miami-area Sedano’s Supermarkets locations next month. The center will also offer pickup service.
The rollout comes as retailers explore multiple ways to use robotics to aid ominchannel shopping and efficiency. Kroger is testing driverless delivery vehicles, while Walmart is building a wareroom providing automated order assembly at a Supercenter. Takeoff said additional fulfillment centers are set to be built in both urban and suburban locations across the country in the near future, with multiple projects in motion.
The compact fulfillment centers can be built into an existing facility, with orders shipped to nearby hubs, such as a locker system similar to Amazon lockers.
Customers can order groceries through a phone app and a robotic system will quickly organize the items into a box that is sent to a human assembler who places the items into bags. The items are then transported to a drive-thru pickup location at the site of the store or transported to the appropriate locker location.
Once a customer arrives to pick up their groceries they can hit a button on their app and have their groceries delivered right to their car by an attendant.
While the spread of robot-based grocery fulfillment may raise concerns about staff layoffs, Herran said in a statement that the model will allow the retailer to "develop a new level of employment opportunities," presumably through item baggers and drive-thru attendants.
Jose Vicente Aguerrevere, co-founder and CEO of Takeoff, said the company's automated micro-fulfillment center enables grocers to "thrive" in e-grocery.
“Grocers have been dipping their toes in e-groceries for years. Now it’s time to jump in with both feet,” he said.