Looks like grocery shoppers on the west coast hoping for an automated warehouse to fulfill their grocery orders will have to wait a little bit longer. Kroger announced today that its next Ocadao-style robot-powered fulfillment center will be in Frederick, MD.
Kroger is building 20 of these smart warehouses, but none so far have made it out west. Other cities getting automated fulfillment centers include Monroe, OH, Groveland, FL, Forest Park, GA, Dallas, TX, and Pleasant Prairie, WI. Frederick appears to be the vague “mid-Atlantic” location the company had previously announced.
These automated fulfillment centers use robotic totes on rails to assemble online grocery orders. Kroger, which is an investor in Ocado, is taking more of a standalone approach to automated grocery fulfillment, building out entirely new, separate facilities. Other retailers such as Albertsons are building out automated micro-fulfillment centers in the back of existing retail locations.
Online grocery shopping is still a small percentage of overall grocery shopping, but its growing. Automated fulfillment centers like the ones Kroger is building have the potential to boost online grocery’s slice of the pie by offering faster turnaround of online orders (and thus, create more orders).
All these systems are just coming online over the coming months, so it remains to be seen how people will engage with them. Additionally, we’ll have to see if there is a difference in convenience and shopper adoption between standalone facilities and in-store ones (or some combination of both).
Kroger shoppers living in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia being served by the new Frederick facility won’t actually be that far ahead of the west coast. The new warehouse won’t open until 24 months after groundbreaking.