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02/04/2022

Kroger opens next-gen fulfillment center in metro Atlanta

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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kroger ribbon cutting
Kroger is opening a next-gen fulfillment center in metro Atlanta.

The Kroger Co. is moving forward with its leading-edge automated warehouse concept known as a customer fulfillment center (CFC).

Introduced in partnership with U.K.-based online grocer Ocado in May 2018, the CFC model combines vertical integration, machine learning, and robotics with affordable and fast delivery service for fresh food. Kroger is now live with its third operational CFC, located in Forest Park, Ga., a city south of Atlanta.

The Forest Park CFC carries thousands of popular grocery products and can fulfill thousands of orders per day.The opening of this facility marks an expansion of Kroger's national fulfillment network, providing the surrounding region with an e-commerce delivery service that combines vertical integration, machine learning, and robotics with fast delivery of grocery items and fresh food.

Kroger unveiled its first CFC in Monroe, Ohio, in April 2021, followed by a second facility in Groveland, Fla. The CFC facilities leverage proprietary technology solutions focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robotics and automation to create more seamless and efficient fulfillment, picking and delivery capabilities for enhanced digital commerce capabilities across the U.S. Through the delivery network, the company now serves customers in Florida, as an example, without traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

CFC also represents one of the models engineered for the grocer’s flexible, vertically integrated Kroger Delivery network, which also includes smaller automated facilities and spoke locations, such as a recently-opened Louisville facility. In CFCs, more than 1,000 robots traverse 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 their delivery times, the robots retrieve products from The Hive, which are presented at stations for items to be sorted for delivery via an algorithmic sorting process. For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted, and each order is optimized to fit into the fewest number of bags, reducing plastic use.

Once completed, orders are loaded into a temperature-controlled Kroger delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Machine learning algorithms dynamically optimize delivery routes, considering factors like road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency. 

The opening of the Forest Park CFC follows another e-commerce expansion for the retailer in the area, the recent launch of the Boost by Kroger Plus annual membership program. For either $59 or $99 per year, Boost provides customers access to benefits like free delivery and the opportunity to earn up to $1 off per gallon of fuel twice as often.

Kroger plans additional CFC sites in California, Dallas, Frederick, Md., Phoenix, Pleasant Prairie, Wis., Romulus, Mich. (Detroit), as well as South Florida and the Northeast.

"We're proud to launch Kroger Delivery in metro Atlanta with future expansion plans throughout Georgia and beyond, a true milestone moment further accelerating our ability to provide our customers with fresh food on their doorsteps and create more job opportunities," said Gabriel Arreaga, Kroger senior VP president and chief supply chain officer.