Albert Heijn will open their first automated distribution center for e-commerce that will not only be sustainable, but it will also fill 45,000 online customer orders per week in its new 25000 m2 Barendrecht facility. This innovative facility will, according to Albert Heijn and Swisslog, also come with a BREEAM certificate just like all the other Albert Heijn facilities. This certificate is granted on the basis that the building is fitted with solar panels, an energy-efficient cold store, LED lighting, a heat pump and is completely gas-free. Swisslog, the global provider of warehouse automation and software, is behind the genius implementation. Albert Heijn speaks of ‘an integrated solution from Swisslog, including an AutoStore: a system that uses robots and bins to quickly collect loose products, such as a jar of peanut butter or a tube of toothpaste’.
The order picking of loose products will no longer be fulfilled by employees of Albert Heijn, instead, these will be picked by roughly 300 robots in the so called Autostore. Head of Sales at Swisslog Benelux says that this unique solution which will use smart SynQ software to fill, transport and sort a shopping crate.
Albert Heijn works exclusively with the Lean Startup principle. This method is a very efficient method to innovate and develop concepts, with the emphasis on the rapid validation of ideas and continuous customer contact. One example is the Albert Heijn Robot Delivery which raced through the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, to deliver the online orders to its customers from the Albert Heijn To Go store. This experimental project demonstrated the methodology behind lean startups.
The supermarket giant is addressing the nationwide staff shortage by making use of the robots. Not only will this be a lighter workload for their order picking employees, but also cost efficient, as robots can pick up to 1200 items per hour whereas its human counterpart, only up to 400. Modern robots also become less costly as the drive for this technology increases. The cost of employing a human will only rise. The goal ultimately is that the work would be carries out more sustainably and more efficiently.
Albert Heijn is not the only retailer who are making use of robotics. Online supermarket Picnic opened a new distribution center in Utrecht where groceries for up to 150,000 customers can be collected by robots. Staples such as hagelslag, butter and dairy are brought to the order picker on a conveyor belt which means the employees barely have to walk anymore.
Will the use of robots lead to lower delivery costs for consumers? Yes, potentially, but the actual effects of the lower costs for the retailer will take a few years to realize. It is also costly to train employees to use new technologies and ultimately the age-old game of supply and demand will dictate what price a supermarket will charge. Price alone, is not the only item which supermarkets compete on. Catering industries, bakeries, meal kit providers are also hot items in this space.
Photo by Alex Knight: https://www.pexels.com/photo/high-angle-photo-of-robot-2599244/