Grocery Delivery Goes Small With Micro-Fulfillment Centers

The robots are trying to get deeper into your grocery order.

Grocers looking to fill online orders more quickly are testing micro-fulfillment systems that can spit out as many as 4,000 orders a week but can still be housed in the back of stores or in urban areas where space is at a premium. The store owners are evaluating whether automation can help tamp down costs while speeding up deliveries and they are turning to a new set of startups aiming to make e-commerce fulfillment more efficient in a small footprint.

U.S.-Israeli robotics startup Fabric, which builds automated micro-fulfillment centers for retail customers, is starting construction on its first U.S. grocery site this quarter. The project, for a regional grocer in the Southeast that it wouldn’t identify, will be about 10,000 square feet, Fabric Chief Commercial Officer Steve Hornyak said. By contrast, regional distribution centers serving grocery chains typically can be 600,000 square feet or more.

The company expects to have up to six smaller fulfillment centers in various stages of construction for grocery stores in the U.S. this year.

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