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Dutch retailer Albert Heijn is opening a new distribution centre in Zaandam, with a high level of automation from goods receipt through to loading. It demonstrates how leading businesses are quickly looking to make use of new technology for a more flexible fulfilment network, as we have outlined in our recent Supply Chains For Growth research.

Albert Heijn, part of the global Ahold Delhaize group, is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, with over 2,000 stores in the country. The announcement follows on from the recent partnership between Takeoff Technologies and Ahold Delhaize in the US.

The new DC takes advantage of new automation technology so that almost all products can be handled in the mechanised systems, including a range of different temperatures and shelf lives. Albert Heijn says that the new DC will:

  • Create 50% more capacity to enable continued growth and improved availability
  • Load orders for stores more efficiently, reducing the number of trucks needed
  • Improve work for colleagues, with less lifting in the DC and easier replenishment in store.

On arrival, pallets are scanned and stowed in a high-rise storage area with space for 9000 pallets. From there they are taken to the “defoil area”, where the pallet wrap is removed and the products are given a final check by a warehouse operator. It goes into a depalletisation area, in which the products are removed from the pallet in layers by automated systems and decanted into trays. The trays are sent into a huge storage area via part of the 8.5km network of conveyor belts.

When the products are needed to send to store, the systems determine a stacking profile for each cage depending on weight, dimensions and the layout of the store it is being sent to. The cages are loaded by robots as efficiently as possible, so more product is loaded on each truck. Autoguided vehicles load the cages on the trucks, and at the store, employees can unload and replenish the shelves more quickly.

Watch this video to discover more about the distribution centre:

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Ahold Delhaize held its Capital Markets Day on 13th November, and confirmed that it is the latest business to link with Takeoff Technologies to create new micro-fulfilment centres (MFCs).

Source: TakeOff Technologies

Enabling omnichannel growth

JJ Fleeman, President of Peapod Digital Labs, described a plan to expand the availability of Click and Collect to over 600 stores by 2019, and a vision to ensure that 65% of US customers have access to same-day delivery by the end of 2020.

In a video played during the presentation, Ahold Delhaize said: “We’re automating assortments tailored to local tastes, enabling customers to receive the freshest products in as little as an hour from facilities right in their local stores or nearby locations, that leverage existing real estate and reduce last-mile delivery costs.”

Advantages of micro-fulfilment

The presentation confirmed some of the key advantages offered by such facilities, including proximity to customers to reduce delivery times and costs, high levels of productivity, low capital costs and short build time. Ahold Delhaize said they would build such facilities either within existing stores or as standalone units.

Source: Ahold Delhaize

Growth of micro-fulfilment

This announcement comes hot on the heels of Takeoff’s recent link-ups with Albertsons and Sedano’s in the US, and CommonSense Robotics’ first openings in Israel. We believe this type of facility offers retailers a flexible way to enhance their ecommerce and omnichannel offerings, a key feature of future supply chains.

For more on the role of fulfilment in these future supply chains, head to our newly-released Supply Chains for Growth report.

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Albert Heijn has introduced a new app, 'Rappie' in the Netherlands. The app, which is currently being piloted in four stores in Rotterdam allows shoppers to 'decide last minute, location-independent what they want to eat or drink and have this delivered immediately'.

Convenience and flexibility

Commenting on the development, Saska Egas Reparaz, Director of Marketing & Format at Albert Heijn said, 'Time is an important factor for many of our customers and we try to unburden by offering convenience and flexibility'

A press release from the retailer said functionality included capability where:

  • Products can be added to the shopping basket with just one click on the product.
  • Products can be added directly to the basket from the search function.
  • Payment of groceries is possible from a so-called 'shopping credit'.
  • Payments with iDEAL is also possible.

How are deliveries fulfilled?

A press release from Albert Heijn stated that it is partnering with Superbuddy.nl, 'an online delivery service that is already delivering home-delivered groceries in Zwolle and Utrecht within two hours'.

Users place their order through the Rappie app, or through ah.nl/rappie. a Superbuddy colleague completes the shopping in an Albert Heijn store and delivers 'groceries by cargo bike where and when the customer wishes'.

This follows the latest in a series of online innovations from Albert Heijn, including the trial of delivery within 15 minutes in Amsterdam. IGD Supply Chain Analysis subscribers can find out more in our coverage of the Albert Heijn 15 minute delivery.

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