In the digital age, shoppers are trading the grocery store aisles for online ordering and opting to have their items packed for pickup or delivery. But supermarkets face a dilemma: How to fill all of those eCommerce orders? Companies such as Takeoff Technologies provide an automated packing solution to help grocers process orders more efficiently.
By partnering with supermarket chains, the company takes up only a small sliver of a brick-and-mortar location – about one-eighth of the space. In that area, Takeoff Technologies installs a beehive of sorts, where robots fetch products like breakfast cereals and shampoo. For items that are more delicate, such as lettuce, a staff member fills that part of the order. When a customer’s order is ready, it can be picked up at a drive-thru window.
Applications of the technology are not limited to supermarkets: While Takeoff Technologies uses extra space in a grocery store, its automated micro-fulfillment centers can also work out of pharmacies, convenience stores and quick-service restaurants (QSRs), as these are locations close to where shoppers live or work. In addition, these locations could also double as pick-up stations, enabled with grocery lockers for easy access. When it comes to the user interface, grocery retailers can either use their own developed user app or opt to use Takeoff’s app, which offers both credit cards and mobile wallets as payment options.
Jose Vicente Aguerrevere, Takeoff Technologies co-founder, chairman and CEO, said the system comes as customers are seeking a more economical way to buy groceries online. “Customers are requesting … to retailers to have a viable solution for eCommerce,” Aguerrevere said in an interview with PYMNTS.com. He noted that a third of consumers buy groceries online, but they’re not doing so more often because of the cost.
This new technology — such as the one that Takeoff is launching — can be quickly implemented: It only takes about three months for the company’s system to get set up, while other systems can take up to three years to implement. The company also claims that its automated system is 10 times more efficient than a manual process: Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled robots can assemble full supermarket orders of 60 items in just a few minutes.
In terms of deployment, Takeoff Technologies plans to go live with its first store in October, with others in the works. Overall, the company has a strong outlook for the system: In the future, Takeoff believes every supermarket will have an automated micro-fulfillment center.