Wakefern, Takeoff Unveil Robot Picking Site

Off-site micro fulfillment center in Clifton, N.J., serving Inserra ShopRites
Photograph by WGB Staff

Takeoff Technologies has outfitted an off-site micro fulfillment center that is now using robot pickers to assemble online grocery orders for certain ShopRite stores in New Jersey and New York.

The 24,300-square-foot facility, located in Clifton. N.J., is the first stand-alone robotic picking facility in the U.S., according to Takeoff. It has already begun assembling orders for online shoppers of Inserra Supermarkets, an independent member of the Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite cooperative with 25 stores in New York and New Jersey. Previous Takeoff facilities, such as those in Miami and in Windsor, Conn., are located in the stores that they service but are also used to assemble orders across multiple stores.

Wakefern, based in Keasby, N.J., said it has an agreement to open additional Takeoff facilities in the future.

“We are excited to partner with Takeoff Technologies to see how their hyperlocal automation technology will benefit our cooperative, retail members and shoppers,” said Steve Henig, Wakefern’s VP of digital commerce and analytics, in a statement. “We are really proud of our e-grocery shopping platform, ShopRite from Home, and believe this partnership will enhance our online shopping service.”

The change in order picking for stores serviced through the Takeoff center, as opposed to those shopped in-stores, should be imperceptible to customers, according to Wakefern. Most Wakefern stores currently offer pickup and home delivery services. The new partnership with Takeoff will expand Wakefern’s capabilities to deliver service and value under a scalable model.

Waltham, Mass.-based Takeoff uses robotic technology licensed from Knapp and proprietary software to assemble online shopping orders quickly and more efficiently than orders picked in stores, the company said. Orders of up to 60 grocery items can be assembled in minutes, increasing efficiency and ensuring customers get their online orders quickly. Takeoff says its innovative model operates at a much lower cost to serve than other e-commerce platforms, solving for both the cost of assembling the order and cost of the last mile.

Takeoff has already opened facilities as part of Stop & Shop and Sedano’s stores and said it was building such sites in partnership with Albertsons Cos. Curt Avellone, Takeoff’s chief business officer, told WGB earlier this year that it had commitments to build 88 U.S. facilities.

Takeoff centers cost about $4 million to install but can generate annual sales of $30 million to $50 million—or about the volume of a well-shopped store that would take four or five times the investment to build, Avellone said.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Wakefern to help make their e-grocery service even better,” said Jose Aguerrevere, CEO and co-founder of Takeoff. “Our hyperlocal approach and technology results in lower packaging costs and high last-mile efficiency.”




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