Robots are helping humans pick up online grocery orders in a new Woolworths facility in Melbourne.

Woolworths today announced it has begun using robots to augment the work of online order pickers in a purpose-built facility adjoining its existing Carrum Downs supermarket.

The 2400sqm space uses automated storage units to bring grocery items to order pickers rather than them walking the aisles. The units can hold up to 10,000 of the most in-demand grocery products, while fresh fruit and vegetables and meat products are still picked from the shop floor.

The new micro-fulfilment facility is the result of a partnership with Boston based e-grocery startup Takeoff announced in August last year.

The supermarket major says the new approach “dramatically improves the speed, efficiency and accuracy of the picking process” and will allow it to deliver more online orders to Melbourne suburbs. Woolworths says online orders have more than doubled in Victoria in 2020 as lockdown measures forced residents to minimise social contact.

Woolworths has so far added 50 online staff to assist with orders in the Carrum Downs store and says it plans to add 100 more as the facility reaches full capacity.

The technology will also be trialed by Woolworths in two of its New Zealand stores.

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said the growth in online grocery was an opportunity to reimagine stores.

“As customer expectations continue to rise, we’re investing in new technology to keep pace with the growth and focusing on building an ever more convenient online offer.

“The micro-fulfillment technology in this eStore is a potential game-changer. It will help us deliver unparalleled speed and accuracy in the online picking process while keeping us close to our customers for faster and more flexible deliveries to the home.”

Banducci said customers increasingly want and expect same day delivery, which the new store will help achieve.

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