Inbound Logistics | June 2021

Orders could reach the consumer in as few as 15 minutes. “Once the order is placed, Kroger sends it to our order management platform, and we see a GPS coordinate identifying where the customer’s house is,” explains Beth Flippo, chief technology officer of Drone Express. “The customer receives real-time tracking and they can change the location if they want. “Let’s say they want an order delivered to the driveway, and not on the grass,”

labor productivity with enhanced assembly practices.” The next grocery frontier lies in new technologies. For example, in December 2020, Walmart announced it would operate fully autonomous vehicles to deliver orders in certain middle- mile routes in 2021. Leading up to that announcement, the retailer had piloted test runs of autonomous trucks in partnership with Gatik, a driverless vehicle startup. Currently, Walmart plans to operate driverless vehicles

explains Keck. “This shifts the financial burden away from the grocer.” Another option has been not to deliver groceries to the customers but to bring the customers to the groceries. Buy online pick up in store, or BOPIS, lets customers pick up the groceries they order through the web, thus eliminating concerns about temperature control or delivery windows. In March 2021, BOPIS grocery sales reached $7.1 billion, according to a Brick Meets Click/Mercatus grocery shopping survey. BOPIS offers a slew of advantages to grocery retailers. “Drive-up is the most effective and important fulfillment method for many grocery retailers,” says David Bishop of retail consultancy Brick Meets Click. “It removes the last- mile issues created with delivery or ship-to-home methods. It also creates an opportunity for an unplanned trip into the store.” Ensuring an adequate number of pickup windows is essential to BOPIS success. There are a few ways to do it. “The main way to resolve the capacity constraint is to increase the ability to fulfill more orders during the same time period,” says Bishop. “Retailers can accomplish this by either adding more staff to assemble orders or by improving

Automated microfulfillment centers enable items to move through at such a rate that in three days a grocery retailer can turn over inventory 100%.

she adds. “They can change it and it’s saved forever.” This new development will enable customers to order groceries any time and at any location. “The best part about drones is that they are one package at a time, so you aren’t anchored to your house anymore,” Flippo says. “You can place an order and it will know where you are based on where your phone is.” Grocers have a lot on their plate navigating the world of online retail. n

between a dark store and a Walmart location in Arkansas. More recently, Kroger announced that it will test drone delivery at a location in Centreville, Ohio. Working with drone company Drone Express, the grocer will deliver small packages (weighing less than 5 pounds) to local residents, using customers’ GPS coordinates. Customers have the option of ordering individual items, or pre-packaged bundles in categories such as S’Mores or Baby Care.

Integrated automated technology supplier Dematic helps companies place automation within an existing retail location or nearby urban fulfillment center to meet the needs of on-demand ordering.

June 2021 • Inbound Logistics 33

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