When Bloomberg surfaced a report last week giving us a first-look inside Amazon’s new grocery store, we were struck by how conventional it was, especially when it came to automation and robotics. But a report from the HNGRY blog this week says that actually, the Amazon grocery store will have robot-powered micro-fulfillment.
From HNGRY’s story:
HNGRY has now confirmed that Amazon is working with Dematic to provide this very technology inside of its new stores, which will ultimately enable faster than average last-mile delivery and in-store pickup. The company has carefully designed this 7,200 sqft area to house room-temperature robotic-picked storage aisles that will house everything from alcohol to packaged food, occupying about 21% of its 33,574 sqft total footprint.
If HNGRY’s reporting is accurate, this actually makes more sense than Bloomberg’s report in a lot of ways. First, Amazon loves robots. It bought robotics company Kiva Systems a long time ago for automating Amazon warehouses. And Amazon is building a big new, dedicated robotics center near Boston.
But it also makes sense from a competitive standpoint. Automated order fulfillment can translate into faster turnaround for grocery pickup or delivery. Already, Walmart is working with Alert Innovation on robot micro-fulfillment, and Albertsons has partnered with Takeoff Technologies.
It would be highly unlikely that Amazon, which prizes speed and efficiency above all else, would cede this type of advantage to its competitors. Amazon offers two-hour delivery for Prime members and waived the delivery fee for Prime members towards the end of last year.
Amazon is also seeing growth in its grocery delivery business. In its most recent earnings report, Amazon said that delivery orders from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods doubled year-over-year in Q4 of 2019.
HNGRY’s report is reassuring, in a way. I was worried Amazon’s supermarket was shaping up to be a bit of a bore. But it’s likely the company still has a few more technological surprises in store.