As they aim to fill eCommerce orders faster, supermarket retailers are piloting micro-fulfillment systems that can be positioned in the back of brick-and-mortar locations or in urban areas. The shop owners are looking to see if automation can make deliveries quicker while keeping costs down, as they work with a new roster of companies that seek to increase the efficiency of online order fulfillment in a small amount of space, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Online orders still comprise a small portion of the U.S. grocery market at approximately 3.5 percent overall food and beverage sales per Forrester. Sales, however, are increasing fast with food and beverage as the quickest-growing U.S. online shopping vertical per eMarketer. With the expansion, food retailers are feverously working to adapt their operations as they take on the jobs shoppers once did such as selecting groceries and bringing them to their houses.
Fabric, a U.S.-Israeli robotics firm, is beginning construction on its first grocery site in the U.S. during the quarter. The project will be approximately 10,000 square feet and for an unidentified regional grocer. Regional distribution centers for supermarket firms usually can be 600,000 square feet or larger. The firm foresees having up to six smaller fulfillment centers in different phases of construction for supermarkets in the U.S. in 2020.
In October, news surfaced that Fabric notched $110 million in a Series B funding round led by Corner Ventures. The funding round also had participation from Temasek, Playground Ventures, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Aleph, La Maison and Innovation Endeavors.
At the time, it was noted that Fabric had so far raised $136 million. The last round raised by the company, as then reported, was $20 million in February of 2018. The firm, which is now based in New York, was started in 2015 in Tel Aviv.
Fabric was also beginning a new platform model that would enable its clients to have on-site micro-fulfillment operations fueled by its technology.