- H Mart plans to use automated micro-fulfillment technology to ramp up its online grocery operations at a warehouse in Carlstadt, New Jersey.
- The Asian supermarket chain has partnered with Norwegian robotics firm AutoStore and Toyota-owned logistics company Bastian Solutions on the automated micro-fulfillment center (MFC), according to a press release on Tuesday.
- H Mart is turning to MFCs as more grocers, including H-E-B, Albertsons and Kroger, embrace the technology.
Grocers are increasingly turning to micro-fulfillment technology as a way to achieve faster picking rates than human workers and handle higher order volume.
For H Mart, the investment in the technology could help it scale its operations as it faces growing competition both from Asian grocery chains, like 99 Ranch Market, which has roughly 50 stores, and e-grocers like Weee and newly-launched Umamicart. H Mart is the largest Asian grocery chain in the U.S., with nearly 100 stores spanning the U.S., including California, Georgia, Virginia and Illinois, according to the company’s website.
The MFC is coming to a facility just a few miles away from H Mart's headquarters in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Construction to add the MFC to H Mart's warehouse, which has been manually picking orders, is expected to wrap up in August, and the technology is slated to be fully operational in October, an AutoStore spokesperson wrote in an email.
Albertsons, which was one of the first grocery chains to test micro-fulfillment technology, has seen automated micro-fulfillment technology lower e-commerce costs and boost localized assortments, CEO Vivek Sankaran said at a virtual conference earlier this month. The grocery chain plans to open seven new facilities in 2021, Sankaran said.
Meanwhile, Walmart said at the start of 2021 that it’s bringing automated MFCs to dozens of stores by partnering with various technology companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.
Several grocers, including H-E-B and Ahold Delhaize, are already using or plan to use AutoStore's technology. The partnership with H Mart comes as at a time when the Norwegian robotics company is growing its U.S. presence as rival firm Ocado readies large automated fulfillment centers with Kroger.
In addition to competing for grocery partners, the two companies are entangled in legal battles over patent infringement.
Earlier this month, AutoStore unveiled a testing center in Norway to quicken its technology deployment for retailers and experiment with how its robots respond to different temperatures and environmental conditions.