In e-grocery, automated micro-fulfillment centers are catching on, but for general retailers and e-commerce sellers, other approaches are part of the picture. Providers are focused on helping online brands or other retail merchants quickly establish the network reach they need for next-day or two-day fulfillment.
Micro-fulfillment is on everyone’s lips these days, or so it seems. Major supermarket chains including Kroger, Walmart and H-E-B have started micro-fulfillment center (MFC) projects, tapping automation companies that offer robotic, high-density storage and picking systems, which can be placed inside of a store, or in a so-called “dark store” that fulfills online orders for a compact geographic area.
But for all the attention on the MFC trend, to date, it’s mainly taking hold in grocery. It does, however, overlap with the concept of hyper-local fulfillment, which almost every retailer or e-commerce brand is trying to achieve in some form. The “hyper-local” concept overlaps with other fulfillment network approaches when the aim is enabling next-day or two-day deliveries, including providers of technology-driven warehousing services, also known as “on-demand” warehousing.
Micro-fulfillment and on-demand warehousing aren’t the same thing, but they do both address the need to meet consumer expectations for rapid online order fulfillment.