Kroger
Kroger Ocado4

Kroger strengthens home delivery network

July 1, 2022
High-tech new customer fulfillment centers in Wisconsin and Colorado leverage advanced robotics and customized reefer vans to boost company’s ecommerce capabilities.

The Kroger Co. is growing its delivery capabilities by expanding its network of high-tech customer fulfillment centers (CFCs) that leverage advanced robotics, adding new locations in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and Aurora, Col.

The newest location in Wisconsin, powered by U.K.-based technology firm Ocado Group, is centrally located between Milwaukee and Chicago.

“We are thrilled to launch Kroger Delivery in Pleasant Prairie, continuing our long-standing engagement in the state of Wisconsin,” said Gabriel Arreaga, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief supply chain officer. “Our tradition of fresh is all about our customers, and this true milestone moment incorporates end-to-end cold solutions, including customized refrigerated vans, providing Kenosha County residents with everything fresh, every time.

“Through the incredible relationships with several local departments, including Kenosha County and Village of Pleasant Prairie, this collaboration was key to success that will bring nearly 250 jobs to the 336,840-square-foot, high-tech fulfillment center and will enable us to expand our delivery services to new areas in the region in need of our best-in-class service.”

The company also collaborated on the project with Kenosha Area Business Alliance, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which is supporting the project with up to $1.5 million in state tax credits to Kroger’s fulfillment network, and up to $500,000 in tax credits to Ocado.

“Kroger is a welcomed community partner, and we look forward to seeing their investment in our community succeed,” said John Steinbrink Sr., Pleasant Prairie president. “Our residents will be excited to know a facility in Pleasant Prairie can deliver fresh groceries right to the doorstep of our neighborhoods.”

Ocado says its “unique, cutting-edge” technology introduces  new levels of service and efficiency for ecommerce grocery customers in the region.

The Pleasant Prairie location is the sixth in Kroger’s expanding nationwide CFC network.

“Utilizing the latest robotics and logistics technology, this ecommerce fulfillment center provides a vital role in offering access to fresh food, especially to those residents without easy access to groceries,” said Samantha Kerkman, Kenosha County executive. “We look forward to providing the Kroger leadership team with a supportive business environment here in Kenosha County.”

Kroger and Ocado say the new Aurora CFC will “redefine” the customer experience in the Denver metro area. The 300,000-square-foot facility is expected to bring nearly 400 new jobs to Aurora and adjacent communities.

“Through the incredible partnership and support from the City of Aurora and Adams County, Kroger Delivery can accelerate its commitment to provide exceptional customer service through our state-of-the-art facility and end-to-end cold solutions, including custom-built refrigerated vans, to ensure our delivery customers receive the freshest products directly to their doorstep throughout the Denver region,” Arreaga said.

Kroger Delivery explained

In 2018, Kroger and Ocado announced a collaboration to establish a delivery network that combines artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and automation in a new way, bringing “first-of-its-kind” technology to the U.S.

The 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. 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 ensure items are “intelligently” packed, the companies said. 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 they are packed, groceries are loaded into a refrigerated delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Machine learning algorithms optimize delivery routes, considering factors like road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency. Drivers may travel up to 90 miles with orders from facilities to make deliveries.

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