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Is the Future of Warehousing all Digitized and Robotic?

As online shopping moves into the food and beverage category with grocery and restaurant delivery, a Boston-area start-up is taking the trend one step further. They’re combining robots and warehouse equipment to create “micro fulfillment centers” inside existing supermarkets.

Streamlining Grocery Delivery

In October, Takeoff Technologies is scheduled to kick off the first of what they project to be several micro fulfillment centers. The host store is yet to be named, but the center will occupy approximately 20 percent of the facility’s 50,000-square-feet.

Robots are sourced from Knapp, a leading warehouse and supply chain automation company. The mechanical “workers” will shuttle bins of merchandise to human counterparts, who will inspect the items for damage and assemble them into orders.

Benefits of New Technology

The micro fulfillment centers offer a number of potential advantages over the current online grocery ordering model:

– Orders can be ready for customer pick-up in as little as 30 minutes.

– The bin system means robots don’t require optimization to handle every item.

– Order-picking by robots is more efficient than using human workers to shop alongside in-store customers.

Humans and Robots Working Side-by-Side

Max Pedro, co-founder and president of Takeoff, says that their micro fulfillment centers can be operational within three months, as opposed to three years for traditional full-size warehouses. Pedro further explains that artificial intelligence and data science will be used to optimize product slotting in bins.

Takeoff’s platform is in line with the strategy of fulfillment centers across all industries, where human and robot workforces are being combined for their complementary strengths.

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