Supermarket giant Kroger is partnering with U.K.-based Ocado Solutions to build a largely automated, digitally enabled warehouse in metro Atlanta to help fill online orders.
The new Customer Fulfillment Center near Kroger’s existing distribution hub at the former Fort Gillem is one of 20 next-generation warehouses, also called “sheds,” planned across the U.S. in partnership with Ocado. The first broke ground near Cincinnati in June.
The companies said the center would transform the e-commerce experience for Kroger shoppers.
“In a fast-developing landscape for grocery retail, Kroger’s determination to continue delivering the best experience for its customers – online and in stores – is unparalleled,” said Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado Solutions.
Ohio-based Kroger is leveraging the British firm’s e-commerce storefronts, supply chain software and automated warehouse solutions, which include cube-like robots on wheels that slide across a massive metal grid, picking products and placing them into bins to be shipped out.
Ocado is a dedicated online grocer founded in 2000. It’s now listed on the London Stock Exchange and exceeded 1 billion British pounds in sales in 2015. Now the group is putting its learnings to work for larger legacy chains. The Ocado Smart Platform’s strength is in bringing together the shopper, the warehouse and the retail location (when necessary). It can even streamline the “picking” process in store for third-party shopping and delivery services.
The companies are set to invest $55 million in the 375,000-square-foot facility in Forest Park near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Despite the robots, it’s set to employ some 400 people, and construction should begin this year.
The announcement came the same day that Amazon Inc. said it would hire 1,000 people for a new 700,000-square-foot fulfillment on the Gwinnett and DeKalb county line in Stone Mountain. The e-commerce giant acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and has been offering two-hour grocery delivery for Prime members in some major cities.
The Kroger move also comes in the wake of major logistics wins in the Atlanta airport area, from a 1,600-job warehouse for British fashion retailer ASOS in Union City to a new Canadian-owned distribution center for vegetables in College Park. The Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance continues to pitch the airport-area as a hub for the food processing and warehousing/logistics sectors.