A recent SupermarketNews article reported the grand opening of Walmart’s 1.1M square-foot Next Generation fulfillment center, which will enable faster processing and delivery of on-line orders to wider geographic areas. The new concept facility will also bring about new jobs.
The piece quoted James Bright III, general manager, Fulfillment Center FC3040, who said, “As the first-of-its-kind for Walmart, our newly opened facility introduces an array of opportunities to our associates, including brand new tech-focused jobs. There’s never been a more exciting time to join Walmart Supply Chain.”
The new center will be the first of four next-gen FCs that will feature a new patent-pending process that is “powered by the combination of people, robotics and machine learning,” the article said. “This process will set a new precedent in fulfillment speed by streamlining a manual twelve-step process to just five steps. Once completed, the four new state-of-the-art FCs for Walmart could provide 75 percent of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping.”
Read the full article…
A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Kroger is continuing to grow e-commerce through expansion and by leveraging technology.
The article said two more automated “spoke” supporting facilities have been opened as “The Kroger Co. continues to build out its e-commerce network driven by Ocado Group technology, a Canada based firm.
As you may know, the spokes serve as a last-mile cross-dock sites for online grocery delivery and help extend the reach of delivery service. The hub and spoke model refers to a distribution method in which a centralized “hub” exists. Everything either originates in the hub or is sent to the hub for distribution to consumers. From the hub, goods travel outward to smaller locations owned by the company, called spokes, for further processing and distribution.
“The continued expansion of the Kroger fulfillment network means improved access to fresh food for customers eager for the variety and value offered by Kroger that once could only be accessed through our stores,” Gabriel Arreaga, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer at Kroger, said in a statement. “This network enables Kroger to add scale, achieve reliability of experience, gain from the benefits of automation and ultimately widen our customer reach in current operating regions and new parts of the U.S.”
In an enormous effort to keep stakeholders at all levels informed and engaged, and another good example of innovative solutions during the pandemic, Canada is running a virtual “Flavors Food Festival.”
The four day event, scheduled for March 22-25, will feature direct connections with Canadian food, beverage, and ingredient companies. Attendees will include supermarket, specialty retail, c-store, food service, food distribution, food manufacturing, and alcohol importers, distributors, and retailers looking to find new products from innovative brands.
Educational breakout sessions will also be offered.
Surprisingly, there is no cost to join in the fun!
A recent progressivegrocer article referred to 2020 as “a year of feverish activity for training and development” in supermarkets due to new job functions and tasks brought on by a public-health crisis.
However, the piece went on to suggest that an even greater need for employee training will emerge this year, because “the pandemic accelerated technology’s impact on innovation and created all manner of new and elevated shopper expectations that front-line employees must satisfy.”
The article referenced a study by The Center for the Future Work, which included data on the extent to which algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) are permeating businesses of all types (73%).
“What we once thought of as the future of work has now become the ‘now of work,’” the article said, and suggested more training around analytical skills will be needed going forward.
However, despite the wide-spread use of AI in supermarkets, the human touch still drives the customer experience. “Humans will continue to add value and be valuable by upskilling — having skills and capabilities that cannot be supplied by even the smartest of machines,” the report noted.
Our previous few posts have focused on technology in supermarkets, used both by the stores themselves and the shoppers.
Along the same trend, as reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, Walmart will literally launch a “technology-driven” pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2021.
The new plan involves a partnership with self-driving car company Cruise to operate an entire fleet of all-electric delivery vehicles powered with 100% renewable energy. The project will support the retail giant’s initiative to reach zero emissions by 2040.
As part of the pilot, customers can place an order from their local store and have it delivered, contact-free, via one of Cruise’s all-electric self-driving cars.
“Technology that has the potential to not only save customers time and money but also is helpful to the planet is technology we want to learn more about,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product, Walmart U.S.
“This year, we’ve had our foot on the accelerator expanding our pickup and delivery services, so customers can get the items they need quickly and safely,” he continued.
So, the trend continues…
For some time now, retailers of all types have been using their imaginations in an effort to provide a memorable and pleasant shopping experience as they do their collective best to ward-off the allure of on-line shopping.
A good example of this was shared in a recent SupermarketNews article, which reported that Walmart has introduced “Walmart Drive-In,” a movie theater experience for families created in partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival. The “drive-ins” will make their world premiere on August 14 in the parking lots of 160 Walmart stores across the country, and will be free.
The article goes on to explain the current plan for the outdoor cinemas, which will run from August 14 through October 21 with 320 showings of popular, family-friendly movies.
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PREPARING FOR THE “NEW NORMAL”
Today’s Wall Street Journal reported that Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV is accelerating development of a robotic cleaning arm to help workers clean stores and process orders more effectively due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the researchers said this Covid situation is so urgent, we see a direct application for our work right now because there’s scarcity of people who can work in stores,” said Bart Voorn, Director of Data, AI, and Robotics.
Of course the grocery giant is only one of many organizations taking innovative steps to initiate improvements in how the operate.
The article quoted Paul Daugherty, Accenture PLC’s group chief executive for technology, as saying, “Hyper automation is coming. We have now only automated 15 to 20 percent of what we can do.”
As noted in previous posts, necessity is, indeed, the “mother of invention” in supermarket chains across the globe; and combining technology with tried-and-true process improvement methodology is the likely path toward preparing for the “new normal” in food shopping.
A recent SupermarketNews article reported that H-E-B has opened a state-of-the-art technology center in East Austin, Texas, that will serve as a “hub of innovation” for its digital team and Favor delivery service.
The article quoted Jag Bath, chief digital officer of H-E-B and CEO of Favor, who said, “The center will play an essential role in keeping both Favor and H-E-B as digital leaders.”
As we have previously shared, innovation and technology have become driving forces in the food industry. As summarized in an article posted on bouncepad.com, grocery shopping as we know it is shifting. Retailers are leveraging technology to target issues consumers have struggled with for years, now offering online shopping and home-delivery along with related offerings geared toward providing more convenience for busy shoppers.
In-store experiences have also begun to mold to the modern consumer, using integrated technology solutions and secure touch-points like tablet enclosures, which help supermarkets with cross-sell services, offer personalized deals, guide shoppers around the store and increase sales.
Click here for a slide show featuring H-E-B’s new technology center.
Once again Wegmans has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the country, as they ranked #2 on Fortune’s 2018 list.
“Company loyalty runs deep at this more than century- old grocery chain, which spent $50 million on employee development last year (plus $5 million in scholarships) and filled half of its open positions internally,” the Fortune web site states.
The piece went on to share that staffers say “fulfilling” work gives them a “sense of purpose,” thanks to Wegmans’ mission of “helping people live healthier, better lives through food.” The civic spirit helps too: The chain reclaims millions of pounds of food every year to feed the hungry.
Salesforce was listed atop the list, which, according to the company’s website, measures companies on the following characteristics:
- Executive team effectiveness
- People-focused programs
- “Great Place to Work For All”
In a Great Place to Work For All, employees report high levels of trust, credible and respectful leadership, pride in the work, and camaraderie.
More than 315,000 employees provided feedback to determine the winners of the 2018 list. To be considered, companies needed to have at least 1,000 employees and receive enough survey responses to achieve a 95% confidence level with no more than a 5% margin of error.
Our previous post indicated that Amazon was the clear leader in online grocery shopping. However, a recent SupermarketNews article said that “Walmart’s heavy investment in e-commerce is paying off, and the retail giant could top Amazon in online grocery market share by the end of this year.”
The data was based on a Deutsche Bank Securities report, which said Walmart had been shifting focus and growth strategies in the direction of e-commerce, and that the chain has plans to bring online grocery delivery to 100 metropolitan areas — covering 40% of U.S. households — by the end of 2018 through its own services and third-party providers.
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