Fast Company reports that Takeoff Technologies is developing "micro fulfillment centers" - small, heavily automated grocery distribution facilities that could be located inside existing supermarkets and used to quickly assemble orders for delivery or customer pickup.
By putting the facilities in existing stores near where customers live and shop can make getting food and other goods to the consumer faster and cheaper than delivering groceries from remote warehouses, Takeoff CEO and cofounder Jose Vicente Aguerrevere explains to Fast Company.
The company received $12.5 million Series B round of funding back in January and plans to launch its first micro fulfillment center within a yet to be named grocery store this October. The center will use 10,000 square feet of its 50,000 square foot space. In the facility, robots from Knapp will shuttle bins of merchandise to human packers, who'll grab products and verify if they're in good shape and fill customer orders, Fast Company reports.
Takeoff expects that customers will be able to place an order for pickup with just a half-hour of lead time, becoming more efficient that current services that send order pickers scurrying alongside shoppers to pluck items from store shelves. According to Bloomberg, the bin system will avoid having to optimize robots to handle every conceivable item.
Human employees are still important to Takeoff, though. Workers can grab bulky items and frequent add-ons that robots aren't able to grip yet. According to Fast Company, the shelves and bots can be assembled in store in just a few weeks.
Artificial intelligence and data science tools will help optimize the placement of item bins. Particular items will have to be stored in certain places so they're kept at the right temperature, and some groceries may be stored in multiple bins so that they're near frequent companion items, Fast Company reports.
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