US retailer Kroger: bringing home the groceries

The Kroger Co. has a long history in retail grocery operations. Today, Kroger is a $115 billion company operating in 35 states in the US. Kroger owns 38 manufacturing facilities that produce about 40 percent of the private-label brands sold in Kroger stores. Recently, it established automated micro fulfillment centers to expedite the processing of e-commerce orders, is testing the use of autonomous vehicles for home delivery and started a partnership with Ocado. Kevin Condon is Kroger’s senior director of engineering and supply chain network strategy. He talked with DC Velocity.

Restock Kroger

The “Restock Kroger” program is aimed at redefining the food and grocery customer experience in America. Kevin Condon: “While we tend to focus on things like robot-powered fulfillment centers and autonomous delivery vehicles when we think about the future, the truth is that Kroger has been a leader in strategic decision-making and progressive technology investments for our entire 135-year history. You can look as far back as combining the butcher and the baker in the same storefront, the introduction of bar codes and optical scanners, or the more recent customer personalization made possible by data science. Traditionally, network strategy has focused on optimizing capacity utilization and minimizing costs associated with inventory, processes, and transportation. With the evolving expectations of our customer, our network strategy also evolves to include building capacity to support our “anything, anytime, anywhere” customer expectations.”.

Hi-tech deliveries

Kroger plans to build 20 highly automated facilities in partnership with UK online retailer and tech-company Ocado over the next three years. Ocado’s solution combines robotics and mechanical equipment with warehouse operating and control systems, as well as optimization and route planning for delivery.

Kroger has a pilot program in Arizona using Nuro’s autonomous vehicles for home delivery. Kevin Condon: “The fact that we’ve now expanded the pilot into a second market in Houston is encouraging for the future of the program. I’m looking forward to evaluating applications throughout various supply chain deployments as we learn more about the capabilities and advantages of autonomous delivery”. Kroger is also offering “Kroger Pickup” click-and-collect service at Walgreens locations in the US.

Source: DC Velocity

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