CINCINNATI—Kroger announced it has opened two new spoke facilities in Greater Nashville and the Chicago Metro Area. These two facilities serve as “last-mile cross-dock” locations and will operate as an extension of regional fulfillment centers, making Kroger Delivery available to more customers in Tennessee and Illinois, according to the supermarket chain.
"Kroger Delivery promises an unparalleled shopping and delivery experience, making fresh just one click away at Kroger.com or the Kroger app," said Bill Bennett, Kroger vice president and head of e-commerce. "From personalized digital offers to our white glove delivery service, the Kroger seamless ecosystem saves time and money. Kroger Delivery orders are brought to customers in our branded delivery trucks and delivered to their doorstep by our trained and uniformed associates—all with zero compromise."
The Nashville location is about 40,000 square feet and will work in conjunction with the Atlanta fulfillment center, increasing the network's reach to customers up to 200 miles from the hub. The facility will employ more than 180 associates.
The Maywood, Illinois, location is about 20 miles west of Chicago and is nearly 80,000 square feet and will work concurrently with the fulfillment center in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The site expects to employ more than 180 associates.
The expansion in Greater Nashville and the Chicago Metro Area represents an extension of a partnership between Kroger and Ocado Group, a grocery e-commerce company. In 2018, the companies announced a collaboration to establish a delivery network that combines artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and automation.
Kroger’s delivery network relies on highly automated fulfillment centers. At the hub sites, more than 1,000 bots move around giant 3D grids, orchestrated by proprietary control systems. The grid, known as The Hive, contains totes with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders.
As customers' orders approach delivery times, bots retrieve products from The Hive and present them at pick stations for items to be sorted for delivery, a process governed by algorithms that ensure items are intelligently packed.
For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted, and each order is optimized to fit into the fewest bags, reducing plastic use. Bags are also recyclable.
Kroger's end-to-end cold solutions keep groceries fresh once loaded into a refrigerated delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Machine learning algorithms optimize delivery routes, considering factors such as road conditions and fuel efficiency. Vans may travel up to 90 miles with orders from the hub and spoke facilities to make deliveries. Associates at the spoke facility will deliver orders within their service area, adding ZIP codes as demand grows.
Kroger currently operates customer fulfillment centers in Monroe, Ohio; Groveland, Florida; Forest Park, Georgia (Atlanta); Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin; Dallas; and Romulus, Michigan (Detroit), with additional customer fulfillment centers slated for California; Frederick, Maryland; Phoenix; Cleveland; Charlotte; Aurora, Colorado (Denver); as well as South Florida and the Northeast.