Where robots fit into the online grocery store ops equation

Supermarket retailers are faced with a huge labor challenge. The explosion of ecommerce is amplifying this by creating the need for more order pickers, whether store employees or third-party providers, to manually fulfill e-grocery orders from stores.

Grocers are taking several approaches to address the issue. The initial goal is to improve manual order picking speed and accuracy. What worked when ecommerce order volumes were low no longer handles the larger volume of ecommerce orders being fulfilled today.

To get more orders out of the same headcount, retailers use a combination of technology, process improvements and sometimes shelves in the back of the store with fast-moving inventory that’s dedicated to filling online orders. Each of these steps can help retailers move toward achieving pick rate targets of 65 to 75 items per hour.

But pick rate improvements only solve part of the problem. There remains the issue of overcoming shopper dissatisfaction with substitutions and out of stocks. Compounding this is the challenge of picking orders from a dynamic inventory of live store shelves that makes it difficult to know what’s in stock.

As e-grocery volumes continue to increase, some retailers have started adding automated systems to further reduce labor and improve order accuracy. Current systems on the market can provide a variety of functions, including storing items, picking orders, handling store-picked orders and dispensing orders across ambient, refrigerated and frozen products.

Continue to read full article on Retail Wire.

Is Inflation Causing Consumers to Choose Pickup Over Delivery?

Brick Meets Click finds pickup rose 9% in May from last year, while delivery increased 5%

Online ordering continues to post strong numbers—e-grocery sales in May reached $7.1 billion, 1.7% higher than a year ago, according to Brick Meets Click and Mercatus—but as inflation persists, consumers who enjoy the convenience of pickup and delivery “are also becoming more cost conscious.”

Pickup, which captured 45% of online grocery sales in May, rose 9% from last year, while delivery, with a dollar share of 36%, increased 5%, according to a Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey fielded May 28-29. (Ship-to-home, orders received via common or contract carriers such as FedEx and UPS, represented 19% of e-grocery sales in May and dropped 16% vs. the prior year.)

Pickup’s increase was driven by a more than 10% growth in its monthly active user (MAU) base, while delivery saw modest gains in MAUs, the companies said in a release. It’s also an indication that inflation is influencing where and how customers shop online.

“Customers appreciate the convenience of ordering online, but they are also becoming more cost conscious,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of Toronto, Canada-based Mercatus. “To defend the base business, Grocers can promote pickup to address both issues. Assuming the pickup experience aligns with customer expectations, showcasing the savings associated with pickup’s lower fees, no fuel surcharges or zero tips can better protect your online customers and sales by highlighting a more affordable alternative to home delivery.”

grocery pickup

Continue to read full article on Winsight Grocery Business.

Expect Another Transformational Step-Change in Food Shopping

Over the past 100-plus years, the food shopping experience in the U.S. has evolved primarily through large step-changes driven by innovative new store formats. Another such step-change can be expected in the not-too-distant future.

At the turn of the 20th century, food shopping was complicated and cumbersome. Consumers purchased their meats from the butcher’s shop; produce at “green grocers” or fresh markets; breads and pastries from bakeries; and shelf-stable, packaged food products at “dry grocery” stores such as A&P, the dominant such retailer at the time. In all instances, the stores were operated by clerks to whom the order was given and who would fulfill the order by picking items off shelves and displays behind a counter. Many of these stores allowed their customers to order remotely by note and later by phone, and clerks would prepare the order for pickup or even deliver it to the customer’s home.

A radical change was ignited in 1916 the dry-grocery segment when Clarence Saunders launched Piggly Wiggly, the first successful operator of “self-serving” food stores. In these stores, there were no clerks or counters between the customers and the products on shelves. Prices were displayed on tags, and customers collected their own items in hand-carried baskets and then went through a checkout station to pay for them. Customers very much liked the 20% reduction in prices enabled by the huge improvement in operating efficiency through the elimination of clerical labor costs.

Even more importantly, though, customers actually preferred this way of shopping over clerk service for two primary reasons. First, customers had direct access to product information and prices, enabling them to make purchase decisions at their own pace without feeling the pressure of occupying the clerk’s time. Second, they didn’t have to wait to be served by a clerk during busy periods. As a result, dry-grocery stores began a rapid shift to the self-service model, which transformed not just food retail but eventually all of retail.

Digital changes everything

Even though the emergence of e-commerce has dramatically impacted almost every other segment of retail, it had very little impact on customer experience in food until quite recently. This is due to a variety of unique challenges associated with selling food online, the most fundamental of which are (a) the cost to the retailer of performing order-fulfillment processes that are free in the self-service model and (b) the fact that raising prices to cover these additional costs is not realistically feasible.

Continue to read full article on Mass Market Retailers

Alert Innovation Announces the Addition of John Biasi as New Chief Product Officer

Critical hire sets new pace of product development as company scales

Alert Innovation, a leader in grocery automation and micro fulfillment systems, announced the appointment of John Biasi to the newly created role of Chief Product Officer.

In his new role, Biasi will be responsible for overseeing all product development at Alert Innovation including product management, program management, systems engineering, software engineering, and hardware engineering.

Throughout his career, Biasi has been successful in a range of operational and product leadership roles across a variety of high-tech industries including LED Lighting, Wireless Mesh Networking and Semiconductor Factory Automation. As an entrepreneur, Biasi was also a co-founder of FASTech Integration, which developed mission-critical manufacturing software for semiconductor and electronics companies.

“Alert Innovation has built a strong organization with an incredible foundation” said John Biasi, CPO of Alert Innovation. “I look forward to collaborating with this dedicated team to propel the company’s objectives for growth.”

Prior to Alert Innovation, Biasi held the role of CEO at Full Spectrum Software a professional services company specializing in the development of medical devices. Biasi was also the General Manager at DEKA Research responsible for the development of advanced consumer solutions including the Coca Cola Freestyle, a touch screen soda fountain introduced by The Coca-Cola Company in 2009. While at DEKA, his team also developed an innovative medical infusion platform and a vapor compression distillation device used to create medical grade water.

“As Alert Innovation continues to grow at a rapid pace, we are putting the right people in place to ensure our success” says Fritz Morgan, CEO of Alert Innovation. “We are thrilled that John is joining us and look forward to applying his decades of expertise and success to our product development organization.”

Alert Innovation continues to hire in all areas of the organization including software, hardware, systems engineering and more. Click here to view all open roles.

About Alert Innovation, Inc

Alert Innovation® is a thought leader in Grocery automation, driving innovation that improves lives by transforming how retailers operate and people shop. Alert Innovation is an industry leader in robotic e-grocery fulfillment. The Alphabot® system, designed by the Alert Innovation team is a unique automated fulfillment solution that utilizes patented omnidirectional robots in a temperature-controlled system for fresh, efficient, and high-quality grocery fulfillment. Alert Innovation also designed the Novastore™, a store concept utilizing the Alphabot system, delivering a dynamic and efficient shopping experience. www.alertinnovation.com

Media Contact:

Ron Margulis
RAM Communications
+1 908.337.0020

Alert Innovation Origin Story

I’m John Lert, I’m the Founder and CEO of Alert Innovation and I’m standing here in our first commercial Alphabot® system. I would like to tell you a little about how this came to be.

I’m an inventor. In the mid-nineties I became very interested in supermarket retailing as an area of innovation. I started thinking about how would I reinvent the supermarket, which has operated the same way for 100 years. This was an industry operating very complex, operating at a very large scale, touching everybody’s lives. I felt that there was a way to reinvent the store through technology how would you do it.

So I first started thinking about the checkout line, because that’s what I hate the most. I started imagining what if machines picked all the packages for people instead of the customers, you wouldn’t have to go through checkout.

Then, I started realizing it was much bigger idea than eliminating checkout, it would fundamentally change how stores worked and eliminate the need for customers to do much of the shopping they do do today.

I started thinking about a store in which, the center store would be automated, machines could pick all the packaged goods and customer would order them on their computers.

Automation is fine for packaged goods because one box of cereal is the same as another but it’s not as true for the fresh market where steak is different from another or one peach is different from another peach.

As a customer, I want to be able to pick those specific items. I don’t want to have to do that but I’d like to be able to have people at the store pick it. I would like to be order electronically or go into the store and pick it myself. That became my organizing idea and when I started realizing that this could be the perfect store for retailers as well, I got very excited.

Then I started studying automation, and I came to the realization that there was no automation on earth that could even come close to doing this. It would require a new type of automation. Is this something I could take on? Is this something that I could do? That’s where the inventor in me became very interested in solving that problem. It’s a very challenging automation problem because create an automation system that can replace the center store that can be inexpensive enough to deploy very broadly, that can be reliable enough that customers always get their products, that can be affordable to be able to deploy to all the stores.

I decided I was going to try to figure out how to automate a supermarket and set out on that journey.

Novastore™ is our vision for the future of supermarkets. Nova means new in Latin so Novastore means a new type of store.

So I started thinking about how to do it. I became interested in mobile robots in 2001. Along the way, I came up with a way to automate case picking and I started a company named Case Pick Systems, which is now Symbotic and I sold my interest in that. Then went back to the idea of each picking of picking individual item units.

In 2013, I started working with my co-founder and co-inventor Bill Fosnight. In 2015, we invented Alphabot essentially as it exists today.

We got our automation ready and in February of 2016, we met with Walmart and they got very excited. Walmart knew that automating fulfillment at the store level would require a new technology. They were out looking for it; they found us.

In five and half months we created a strategic partnership that funded the development for Walmart. Bill and I recruited a world-class team of automation engineers and here we are today, five years later. We have built our first system. We built it in two and a half years.

Now we’re on the verge of deploying at a large scale.

Eventually, we will realize the vision of Novastore. Alphabot will evolve to be able to automate the center store. We will create this new format of the automated supermarket with no self-service center store and an optional self-service fresh market and that will change food retail forever!

This is our opportunity to change the world.

Two-sided Economics of Automation for Instant Delivery

Is Quick Commerce going to eat Grocery’s lunch or is it the other way around?

As instant grocery delivery players like Instacart, DoorDash and GoPuff make stratospheric leaps in the business of “convenience” shopping, the conversation is turning to automation and what role it can play in their businesses. Join us as we look at two sides of the “convenience” conversation – first from the new “Q” Market perspective and then from the grocer’s perspective. We will examine this growing trend of on-demand grocery shopping and the new operational models that fuel them. Each side has lofty goals for profit, and we will investigate the benefits and challenges of both store-level and regional automation for order fulfillment and replenishment.

Originally presented at FMI Midwinter Conference, March 21, 2022

Competitive Landscape: Retail MFC Providers

Gartner Research Presents – Competitive Landscape: Retail Store-Based Microfulfillment Center (MFC) Providers for Tier 1 Multichannel Retailers

Alert Innovation was named by Gartner as a leading microfulfillment center provider for tier one multichannel retailers.

Gartner highlighted Alert Innovation’s competitive differentiators including:

  • offering three temperature zones for ambient, chilled and frozen
  • patented omnidirectional robot
  • founder’s extensive experience in grocery supply chain experience in automation and engineering

Download the full report to learn more.

*This report was written and published by Gartner.



Dynamic Company Culture

2022 Best Companies to Work For In Boston from Alert Innovation.

Whistle While You Work 

Alert Innovation has a dynamic company culture full of curiosity, creativity, and collaboration!  We are proud of our Core Values and it shows every day in our work ethic and desire to have fun while being productive.

We are proud to be recognized by both BuiltIn Boston and Forbes for our remarkable company environment.

builtin Boston Best Places to Work            Forbes Best Startup Employers 2022

Find your next career move with us!

See our careers page for open positions.

Alert Innovation Named America’s Best Startup by Forbes for Third Year in a Row

Automation leader recognized as #5 in US Robotics/Engineering & #1 in the East Coast

BOSTON – For the third year in a row, Alert Innovation, a leader in grocery automation and micro fulfillment systems, has been named to the prestigious Forbes list of America’s Best Startup Employers. Alert Innovation scored high, ranking as #5 in the nation for the Robotics/Engineering category and #1 in the East Coast.
Forbes Best Startup Employers 2022
Overall, Alert Innovation took the #299 spot of all American startups in 2022. The approach, led by Statista Inc., evaluates over 8 million data points to recognize the top 500 startups in the United States that exceed in employee satisfaction, employer reputation and company growth. To determine the list, Forbes and Statista identified 2,500 American businesses founded between 2012 and 2019 and employ at least 50 people and then evaluated them using vast social listening campaigns and extensive desk research.

“We are thrilled and honored to be recognized again by Forbes for the exceptional culture we have created at Alert Innovation” says Fritz Morgan, CEO of Alert Innovation. “We are proud of our company’s core values and recognize that everyone on the team is an important contributor to this remarkable culture of collaboration, learning and growth.”

Alert Innovation was also recognized as 2022 Best Midsize Companies to Work for in Boston by Built In, a major online community for startups and tech companies.

For a quick look at the company’s extraordinary company culture, check out this fun video – 2022 Best Companies to Work For. And for more about Alert Innovation career opportunities visit careers.

About Alert Innovation, Inc

Alert Innovation® is a thought leader in Grocery automation, driving innovation that improves lives by transforming how retailers operate and people shop. Alert Innovation is an industry leader in robotic e-grocery fulfillment. The Alphabot® system, designed by the Alert Innovation team is a unique automated fulfillment solution that utilizes patented omnidirectional robots in a temperature-controlled system for fresh, efficient, and high-quality grocery fulfillment. Alert Innovation also designed the Novastore™, a store concept utilizing the Alphabot system, delivering a dynamic and efficient shopping experience.

Media Contact:
Ron Margulis
RAM Communications
+1 908.337.0020