Today’s Pickup: automation winning in ‘grocery wars’ and warehousing

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Good day,

Amazon and Walmart WMT have invested billions in e-commerce, yet Kroger KR has taken the lead in grocery delivery. By far the most significant partnership came last month when Kroger said it would work with U.K. online supermarket OcadoOCDO

Home delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables is much more developed in both Western Europe and China than in the U.S, where orders are dominated by packaged products with long shelf lives, such as bottled water and coffee pods.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ocado meanwhile has invested heavily in the robotics and software necessary to automate fresh-food orders in its U.K. business. In its flagship warehouse in Andover, South East England, robots constantly shuffle a “hive” of stacked boxes to expose the right groceries for human pickers to bag on behalf of customers. This high-tech approach is expensive, but can achieve much better picking rates than the more manual solutions developed by the likes of Tesco in the U.K. and Ahold Delhaize’s Peapod unit in the U.S.

The U.S. may be poised to catch up. Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods a year ago injected a new urgency into traditional supermarkets’ efforts to sell goods online.

Did you know?

Central Oregon Trucking Company has announced a new pay structure that paves the way for driver salary increases of up to $15,000 per year. The Daseke company’s new pay structure has been dubbed “Weekly Driver Salary Pay,” and it guarantees solo drivers a weekly paycheck of at least $1,250, according to a media release from COTC. The program offers new drivers a base salary of $65,000 per year, while giving more experienced drivers the opportunity to earn over $90,000 annually.


“Once the industry has solved the battery issue, we believe at that time our technology will be mature, and we can fully operationalize our drone delivery program.”

—Chen Zhang, CTO of

In other news:

What’s the Yield Curve? ‘A powerful signal of recessions’ has Wall Street’s attention

If you’re in the business of making economic predictions, it has become very difficult to disregard an important signal from the bond market. (New York Times)

China begins to question whether it’s ready for a trade fight

Some in Beijing are starting to openly wonder whether China is ready for the fight — an unusually direct challenge to the leadership of the world’s second-largest economy. (Bloomberg)

EU challenges China on solar tech, ‘developing market’ status

The future of European solar manufacturers hangs in the balance this summer, with two separate but overlapping policies on Europe-China climate policy under review by delegations from the EU and China. (Forbes)

Oil drops after OPEC+ output deal, but markets to stay tight

Despite the increase, which is intended to stop the gap between global supply and demand from becoming too wide, analysts said global oil markets would likely remain relatively tight this year. (Reuters)

Accenture: disconnect between C-suite and supply chain misses digital growth opportunites

Report explores how CEOs, COOs and CFOs must be involved in efforts to transform the supply chain from support function to competitive differentiator. (SupplyChain247) 

Final Thoughts:, the logistics major from China, has recently unveiled a warehouse that can handle 200,000 orders a day but employs just four people—with their jobs centered around servicing the robots that run the place. The fulfillment center built at Kunshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, ushers in a new future to the Chinese e-commerce industry with confident on providing same-day delivery to even the remotest places across China, provided the order comes in before 11 a.m. for the day.

With automation, it is quite evident that hundreds of thousands of worker jobs would be lost, and this is particularly felt in China as it holds the largest population in the world. But amidst the negative sentiment prevailing across its workforce, assured that though the present jobs would likely be phased out over time, new jobs would crop up–like observing drones and servicing warehousing robots.

Hammer down everyone!

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.