CINCINNATI — With the launch this month of a fulfillment “spoke” in Miami, Kroger is offering grocery delivery to shoppers in South Florida, where the retailer has no retail locations.
Kroger describes the 60,000-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 a 375,000-square-foot, Ocado-powered customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Groveland, Fla., that has been operating for about a year.
It is one of 17 CFCs that the partners have up and running in the United States.
With the help of spokes and other satellite facilities, each CFC covers a delivery radius of up to 90 miles.
The Miami spoke is the fifth spoke now in operation; others are located in Tampa, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Lockbourne, Ohio; and Indianapolis. Another five are in the works, in Louisville, Ky.; Oklahoma City; Birmingham, Ala.; Austin, Texas; and San Antonio.
The partners began collaborating in 2018 to establish grocery delivery capabilities that combine artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and automation in a hub-and-spoke delivery network. Each network relies on a highly automated fulfillment center.
“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 are presented at pick stations for items to be sorted for delivery, a process governed by algorithms that ensures 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 such factors as road conditions and maximal fuel efficiency, according to Kroger.
“Kroger’s new hub in Miami-Dade County is an innovative program that demonstrates how business leaders are leveraging technology to provide important services and job opportunities,” said Daniella Levine Cava, who has been mayor of Miami-Dade County since 2020. “Their e-commerce model to deliver fresh food at people’s doors offers another great option for our community to stock up on the essentials during hurricane season. This will help to make sure they have what they need to keep their families fed and secure.”
Kroger said it was expecting to hire about 200 people to support the new South Florida delivery service, including jobs in logistics, human resources and transportation.