go figure …
The percentage of shoppers that completely trust retailers to protect their
personal data—the lowest level of trust
among 10 different industries.
SOURCE: ZEBRA TECHNOLOGIES’ 11TH ANNUAL “GLOBAL
Berkshire Grey jumps into robotic
e-commerce fulfillment sector
Grocery chain Kroger Co. and pharmacy
operator Walgreens are building on a pilot
program that allows customers to purchase
Kroger products at Walgreens stores, the
companies said in December.
The firms will offer Cincinnati-based
Kroger’s “Kroger Express” service at 13
Walgreens test stores in Northern Kentucky,
the companies said. Kroger Express is a convenience service that offers a select range
of products, including meal kits, national
brand items, and Kroger’s “Our Brand” products. The first program is up and running in
Florence, Ky.; the remaining 12 stores will
launch the service this year, the companies
The deal marks yet another move in the
evolving e-grocery market. It adds to the
companies’ one-stop-shopping pilot program announced in October, which gives
customers easy access to Kroger products
at Walgreens stores, including the ability to
purchase Kroger products online for pickup
at Walgreens, the companies said.
The pilot is part of the data-driven
“Restock Kroger” program, launched in 2017
to improve the customer experience and
address the changing grocery marketplace,
according to Kroger.
Kroger and Chicago-based Walgreens
also expanded their partnership in Chicago,
announcing the availability of quick-cook
“Home Chef Express” meal kits at 65 Wal–
greens locations in the Chicago area. During
the pilot, Walgreens will offer three unique
Home Chef Express meal kit options, with recipes rotating biweekly, the company said.
Kroger and Walgreens
expand one-stop-shop pilot
The robotic fulfillment solutions market got more crowded in December,
when well-funded newcomer Berkshire Grey emerged from stealth
mode with a product it says automates omnichannel operations with
artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled robotics.
Led by veterans of robotics vendors iRobot and Kiva Systems,
Lexington, Mass.-based Berkshire Grey says its robotic solutions automatically pick, pack, and sort individual items, inner packs, cases, and
parcels for e-commerce and store replenishment orders, achieving higher accuracy and throughput speeds than can be attained with traditional
The company aims to help its customers—which it characterizes as
“some of the largest players in retail, e-commerce, and logistics”—to
counter the “Amazon effect,” a reference to the pressure on suppliers
to provide the same premium shipping options (like free shipping
and overnight home delivery) that Amazon’s customers have come to
expect, Berkshire Grey CEO Tom Wagner said in a blog post.
The company did not provide details on its products but said they
were based on AI, computer vision, machine learning, novel sensing,
and robotics. A video provided by the company shows an array of offer-
ings that appear to include mobile robots, stationary robotic picking
arms, and suction cup end-effectors for picking “eaches.”
In a statement, Berkshire Grey said it already has a number of paying
customers from the ranks of global 100 retailers and household-name
companies but declined to disclose their identities. The company said it
plans to announce multiple customers in 2019.
Berkshire Grey is backed by investment funding from some of the
biggest names in logistics technology, including Khosla Ventures, New
Enterprise Associates (NEA), Canaan Partners, and individual investors
like former General Electric honcho Jeff Immelt. NEA also funds logistics startups such as Aera Technology, Clearmetal, Upskill, Transfix,
Despite its impressive roster of financial backers, Berkshire Grey has
some marketplace hurdles to clear. It is entering a crowded field that
includes established logistics robotics providers such as GreyOrange,
Locus Robotics, 6 River Systems, Fetch, inVia Robotics, and Geek+.
As Berkshire Grey emerges from stealth mode and competes for a
place at the table, its success will depend on its ability to install its robotic fulfillment systems with minimal disruption to customers’ warehouse
operations, said John Santagate, research director, commercial service
robotics at IDC Manufacturing Insights, an analyst group based in
The potential efficiency gains notwithstanding, implementations of
advanced automated systems can be hampered if they demand “
greenfield” installation in brand-new facilities or shuttering portions of existing DCs, he said. “The cost, time, and expense of such implementations
is what has held many lower-tier facilities back and been a driver in
adoption of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in those same facilities,” Santagate said.