CINCINNATI — Kroger continues to extend its grocery delivery network rapidly, most recently via the openings of a new “spoke” in Louisville, Ky., and a customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Dallas.
Kroger describes the 50,000-square-foot spoke as “a last-mile, cross-dock” operation that features technology from U.K.-based partner Ocado Group PLC. The spoke allows Kroger to expand the reach of an Ocado-powered customer fulfillment center in Monroe, Ohio.
In Dallas, the new 350,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center helps speed deliveries within the metro area and also works in collaboration with spoke facilities located in Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. With the help of spokes and other satellite facilities, each CFC covers a delivery radius of up to 90 miles.
Kroger and Ocado began collaborating in 2018 to establish delivery capabilities that combine artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and automation in a hub-and-spoke delivery network
Each network relies on highly automated fulfillment centers. “At the hub sites, more than 1,000 bots whizz around giant 3D grids, orchestrated by proprietary air-traffic control systems in the unlicensed spectrum,” according to the partners. “The grid, known as The Hive, contains totes with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders. As customers’ orders near delivery times, the bots retrieve products from The Hive and present them at pick stations for items to be sorted for delivery, a process governed by algorithms that ensure items are intelligently packed. For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted, and each order is optimized to fit into the lowest number of bags, reducing plastic use.”
After being packed, online grocery orders are loaded into a refrigerated delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Machine-learning algorithms optimize delivery routes, gauging factors such as road conditions and maximal fuel efficiency, according to Kroger.
“Kroger Delivery is part of our rapidly expanding, seamless ecosystem that provides customers with fresh and quality products — anytime and anywhere,” Bill Bennett, Kroger’s vice president and head of e-commerce, said earlier this month in announcing the addition of the Louisville spoke. “We are thrilled to expand Kroger’s offerings to more Louisville customers with a truly differentiated customer experience.”
Kroger earlier this year opened a fulfillment spoke in Miami offering grocery delivery to shoppers in South Florida, where the retailer has no retail locations.
In addition to the customer fulfillment center in Dallas, Kroger operates CFCs in Monroe, Ohio; Groveland, Fla.; Forest Park, Ga.; Pleasant Prairie, Wis.; and Romulus, Mich. Additional customer fulfillment centers are slated for California; Frederick, Md.; Phoenix; Cleveland; Charlotte, N.C.; Aurora, Colo.; South Florida and the Northeast.