What if your grocery orders were prepared in a tiny robot warehouse?
Your local supermarket could soon be home to a miniature robotic warehouse. Boston-area startup Takeoff Technologies is developing what it calls micro fulfillment centers—small, heavily automated grocery distribution facilities that could be located inside existing supermarkets and used to quickly assemble orders for delivery or customer pickup. Putting them in existing stores near where customers live and shop can make actually getting food and other goods to consumers faster and cheaper than delivering groceries from remote, sprawling warehouses.
Ideally, a customer will be able to place an order for drive-through pickup with just a half-hour lead time. The process should be more efficient than existing services that send order pickers scurrying alongside shoppers to pluck items from ordinary store shelves, the company says. Using the bin system will avoid having to optimize robots to handle every conceivable item, including fragile produce.