Retailers use a variety of different solutions for online orders to ensure success in the e-grocery business while continuing to offer the best possible shopping experience. Micro fulfillment centers (MFCs) offer flexibility and are ideal for providing customers in urban areas with goods. The French food retailer Intermarché chose our MFC concept to automate their online retail fulfillment. Their two locations in Paris and Lyon process 1,000 orders a day, which are then delivered to nearby stores.
Intermarché was founded in 1969 as part of the French retailer Les Mousquetaires. The food retailer operates an extensive network of stores of varying sizes to provide consumers with groceries and everyday items.
The topic of e-commerce has also been relevant to food retail for quite some time. Today, consumers shop online and expect a wide range of products, perfect service and flexible solutions for the last mile. When buying groceries online, consumers expect the same advantages they have come to enjoy from other online retail sectors – with the addition of peak freshness and top quality.
Intermarché now offers all products sold in their supermarkets in their online store as well. E-commerce currently makes up 8 % of the French retailer’s turnover, which accounted for over 26 billion euros in 2021.
Automation enables rapid entry into e-grocery
As online orders increased, Intermarché looked for an opportunity to quickly respond to market developments and to quickly and efficiently process online orders.
Intermarché, like many food retailers, initially opted for a straight-forward approach that would allow them to quickly enter the e-commerce business. After consumers placed their orders online, the orders were processed manually by employees in the stores. As the market grew, this approach affected the shopping experience of customers buying their groceries in the store.
Intermarché recognized that in-store order processing had to be complemented with an automated solution to allow continued growth in urban areas with high population density. This new business model provides much-needed automated support, which Intermarché found in our Micro Fulfillment Centers (MFCs).
The turnkey, automated solution allows companies to rapidly enter the e-grocery business at a lower investment volume than other e-commerce solutions. It also reduces expenses in the supermarkets themselves, increases turnover and improves the quality of service. The compact system design means MFCs are perfect for urban areas and their proximity to customers significantly reduces costs for the last mile.
The MFC, which was jointly developed by Takeoff Technologies and KNAPP, has become the go-to technology in the food supply chain and plays an important role in the supermarket of the future.
“The MFC is a system that offers maximum flexibility, productivity and reliability in large cities. The increase in productivity allows us to not only achieve a higher economic performance but also increased flexibility in meeting our customers’ requirements.”
Highly efficient and close to customers
Intermarché automated two locations in Paris and Lyon with micro fulfillment. Intermarché processes around 1,000 orders per day at both locations. A single order can comprise up to 40 different food items from four temperature zones. About 80 % of the fulfillment per order takes place at the MFCs, while the remaining 20 %, which includes very specific or freshly prepared goods such as cheese and meat, is carried out in stores. Since customers have high expectations for delivery times, Intermarché offers up to four closing times for order acceptance per day. The groceries are then delivered within two hours after the order closing time. To provide their customers with the best service possible, Intermarché offers different options for the last mile. At the store of their choice, customers can opt for drive-in pickup or have the order stored in a locker, where they can pick it up at any time of day or night. Another option is home delivery, where the groceries are delivered directly to their doorstep.
“Our customers have high expectations for delivery times. We have up to four closing times for order acceptance. For our customers, it is important that the order is complete and that we deliver the products within two hours. In our industry, these demands pose a real challenge. To overcome this, we are using a system that ensures profitable growth.”
MFC concept with tried and tested technology
The OSR Shuttle™ Evo plays an essential role in preparing customer orders. The shuttle system retrieves the requested items in the right sequence and sends them to the ergonomic Pick-it-Easy Evo work stations , where an employee takes out the required number of items and picks them directly into the shopping bag. KiSoft guides the employee through the picking process so the right amount of the right item always ends up in the shopping bag. The just-in-sequence supply of groceries to the work stations means that sturdier items are placed in the bottom of the bag, while more fragile items are placed in later. With these techniques, the automation solution increases the quality of customer orders, reduces errors and prevents goods from being damaged. Four Open Shuttles – KNAPP’s autonomous mobile robots – complete the automated MFC concept. They load up the finished orders right from the conveyor system, which is connected to the work stations. The autonomous mobile robots then transport the containers to the multi-level flow racks in the shipping area. Here they are sorted to the right flow rack for the store. The sortation of containers into flow racks is optimized for the shortest route.
“The interaction with the high-tech environment also provides our employees with the opportunity for personal development in the company and to diversify their tasks. Finally, the solution also helps us handle peak periods as it boosts productivity and the processes are easy to learn. Despite the difficult situation when it comes to finding personnel, it’s easier for us to put together teams. The goods-to-person principle has made picking a breeze.”
24/7 service for the MFC thanks to the Multi-Site Control Center
MFC networks require a sophisticated service concept. The Multi-Site Control Center (MSCC) provides Intermarché with the optimal control system for all their MFC locations. The service solution supports the retailer’s operation around the clock with continuous system checks that detect any incidents early, before they impact the operation at all. In one overview, the MSCC displays all KNAPP systems, various customer systems and all logistical and technical processes. It checks the software as well as the hardware of the system. Specially developed index numbers show the MSCC team the system’s status. The MSCC has another huge advantage – the index numbers of several locations can be pooled and analyzed together.
“To ensure that the system runs optimally at all times, we have trained our picking personnel on site so that they can carry out first-level maintenance if necessary. KNAPP’s Service Desk is also a real bonus. Thanks to their 24/7 support, we can resolve any technical issues and recognize malfunctions in the system early on.”
Micro Fulfillment Center – one system with many advantages:
Die MFCs bei Intermarché auf einen Blick
containers transported autonomously
number of stores
order lines picked
Automated micro fulfilment at Intermarché
- Four decanting work stations per location for storing groceries in the OSR Shuttle™ Evo.
- OSR Shuttle™ Evo with three rack line systems with 6,600 storage locations in Lyon and 7,200 storage locations in Paris for efficient order fulfillment.
- Two pick-it-Easy Evo work stations per location for ergonomic and error-free picking.
- Four Open Shuttles per location for transporting and sorting completed orders.
- Multi-Site Control Center for proactive and preventative round-the-clock service.
To see how Intermarché automated their e-commerce business with micro fulfillment, check out this video:
Further reading recommendations
For healthcare, textiles and fashion, retail, e-commerce and omnichannel retail, food retail and production, we offer flexible and creative solutions for the last mile. Our intelligent software works behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. Together with our customers, we optimize their value chains.
Intelligent food retail networks combine food retail e-commerce and brick and mortar food retail to offer consumers an optimal shopping experience online and offline.
Our Multi-Site Control Center is an innovative service solution. It supports food retailers with MFC concepts 24/7 during ongoing operation. Incidents can be detected early on and corrected.
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