Loblaws is building an automated picking facility in one of its Real Canadian Superstore locations in Toronto, converting 12,000 square feet of space to test an online order fulfillment area for its PC Express click-and-collect grocery service.
Launching in 2020, the technology will support PC Express online orders in select stores located close to the automated picking facility. Takeoff Technologies developed the hyperlocal fulfillment center, which is designed to function at a fraction of the speed and cost of manual picking processes by picking orders of up to 60 items in just a few minutes.
“This new technology complements the exceptional service of our PC Express colleagues and leverages the strength of our retail store network,” said Sharon Lansing, VP, General Manager, Grocery E-commerce at Loblaws Cos. in a statement. “By increasing the speed and accuracy of our PC Express pick-up service, we can ensure our PC Express customers have a seamless and outstanding experience every time they order. We can fill more orders, more quickly, with a near-guarantee that the products customers order online will be in stock at the store.”
Customers can enter their grocery orders via PC Express online or via a mobile device, and the orders are then routed to the automated system. Once an order is received at the facility, it may be designated for automated picking or in-store picking, or split between the two depending on the products requested. Instead of having an associate walk the store to pick groceries, the automated facility brings groceries directly to the associate to pick and pack.
Once complete, the order goes to a staging area where another associate reviews the order and stores it in the appropriate temperature zone (frozen, chilled or room temperature). The order is then combined with the in-store picked items if necessary. When the shopper arrives, the associate brings the order out to their car.
Both Albertsons and Wakefern Foods have piloted the micro-fulfillment center from Takeoff within select supermarket locations, while Kroger has partnered with Ocado to build automated warehouses, with three slated to become operational in 2021 and another in Dallas expected to open by 2022. In total, Kroger and Ocado have said they plan to open 20 fulfillment centers in the U.S.