Innovations in E-grocery

Published on in Food Retail, Last Mile, Logistics of the future, Technology, Trends
4 minutes reading time
Article contains videos

Food retailers are predominantly depending on central fulfillment centers (CFC) and micro fulfillment centers (MFS) to process their e-commerce orders. Businesses are increasingly reaching for innovative ways to process their orders, essentially moving towards full automation.

Advantages of fully automating grocery e-commerce

One of the reasons why grocery e-commerce is moving towards fully automated warehouses is simply because it’s more economical. Automation comes with reduced error rates as well as improved and faster picking processes. This in turn increases throughput and efficiency. Another reason why automation is booming is that highly automated concepts mean employees no longer need to do the heavy work. Food retailers as well as consumers benefit from this model, as they receive their ordered items quickly and in the best quality, which is complemented by flexible solutions for the last mile.

Using a high degree of automation is the only way for our online retail customers to be profitable. Our solutions feature the scalability and flexibility demanded today. A robot, for example, can be easily added at a later time. This speeds up the picking process and offers the best possible quality to our customers.

Portraitbild von Rudolf Hansl, Vice President Food Retail Solutions
Rudolf Hansl
Vice President Food Retail Solutions, KNAPP Systemintegration GmbH

Robots with AI for picking groceries

Our Pick-it-Easy Robot handles a broad range of groceries reliably and fully automatically. The robot uses its specially designed grippers to gently pick and carefully place delicate items. Thanks to its artificial intelligence provided by AI startup Covariant, the robot learns with every pick. Over time, it learns how to process more and more types of items and to place them automatically in the shopping bag. Several camera systems support the robot during the process. One of the cameras keeps an eye on the source container. Here, the item is identified followed by an analysis to determine which item the robot should pick next. This way, the Pick-it-Easy Robot keeps good track of the source container, which is why it always knows how to best handle an item. This information is also used to place the item in the best location possible in the target container or shopping bag. Heavy, less delicate food items are placed in the bag first. Lighter items are placed on top. This creates an ideally packed grocery bag ready for direct delivery to the consumer. And this brings us to our next innovative process.

Pick-it-Easy_Robot_Lebensmittel_1980x1080
The Pick-it-Easy Robot impresses with its outstanding gripper technology and careful article placement.

Fully automatic bagging using paper bags

The goods-in area can also benefit from optimization and automation. Bagging is a good example. It is common practice to manually place bags into order containers. Automated technologies for plastic bags are already available. One of our partners, Shufersal, reached out to us to help find a solution for handling paper bags. Together, we found just the right solution and were able to successfully implement it. What’s more, we are the first on the market to do it. During automatic bagging, paper bags are automatically placed in the containers and opened. Then their flaps are folded so they stay open. Automation significantly speeds this process up. Furthermore, it makes it easier for either an employee or a robot to fill the bags with items.

For 40,000 order containers, for instance, we are opening and placing 80,000 paper bags in containers every day. In collaboration with KNAPP, we have installed the first technology for effectively handling paper bags.

Portraitbild von Avi Sigall
Avi Sigall
Executive Manager, Automation Dept., Programa

Automation hub for all temperature zones

The hub for all the automated processes is our OSR Shuttle™ Evo, which can do so much more than just efficiently store goods. For example, optimal sequencing combined with storage make order fulfillment easy and rapid, because every item is retrieved in the perfect sequence. Furthermore, each work station has access to every item in the system at all times. This also applies to solutions that use robots. If there is a need to expand the logistics system, additional shuttles or additional aisles can easily be added. In the background, the intelligent software KiSoft keeps track of everything.
The OSR Shuttle™ Evo is built with such high quality that it can also be used under extreme conditions. This proven technology is perfect for all temperature ranges in food retail, whether your products fall in the categories of chilled, ambient, fresh or frozen. Our first project using the automated storage system for frozen items is currently being put into operation. The ambient temperature at Shufersal’s distribution center ranges from +22 degrees Celsius down to -22 degrees Celsius (+68 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit). All these areas are covered by automation.

View of the OSR Shuttle™ Evo automatic storage system’s rack line. Two shuttles are storing containers in the shuttle system. One shuttle is moving into the aisle while the other shuttle is doing a cross run and changing to the next rack line. A LED strip on the front of the shuttle indicates the status of the storage robot. The OSR Shuttle™ Evo is low-maintenance and offers very high system availability.
Higher, faster, better, more flexible and economical: The automatic OSR Shuttle™ Evo storage system increases performance, efficiency, and flexibility in logistics processes.

Highly automated, innovative e-commerce fulfillment

We developed and successfully implemented these online fulfillment innovations together with our partner, Shufersal. Their CFC in Kadima is already up and running. The next is scheduled for startup in autumn 2022, in Modi’in. Once the two projects are completed, Israel’s leading grocery retail chain will have achieved an automation degree of nearly 100 percent. This will accelerate picking and provide the utmost quality for consumers. Shufersal’s two CFCs cover the entire central region of Israel.
Decanting is another process our partner would like to automate with us. This is a key process in goods-in, and automation would make this process much more efficient. Here, the right choice for automation is again the Pick-it-Easy Robot as it can precisely register and open cartons and then carefully place items in the right container for storage in the system.

Find out more about our solution at Shufersal in Kadima:

4 minutes reading time
Article contains videos
Nina Firgo
Communications Food Retail Solutions
What trends are shaping food retail, and how are these trends affecting food logistics? Nina is tackling these topics for our blog and writes about the freshest solutions for the grocery sector.

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Additional Information

Would you like to know more about our solutions for e-grocery? We look forward to hearing from you at blog@knapp.com.

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