- Circle K, the international convenience store, is using 100 autonomous mobile robots from Geek+ in its 140,000 square foot distribution center in Hong Kong, the robotics provider announced Tuesday.
- The distribution center handles replenishment for more than 300 Circle K locations that serve more than 600,000 customers every day, the company said.
- The robots will be used to move racked inventory to human workers who will then pick products that need to be delivered. Geek+ says it's already working to expand with Circle K in other countries. "We can replicate to other countries and then replicate to other companies," said Fish Yu, a senior marketing manager at Geek+.
Constructing more efficient replenishment and fulfillment networks has recently been a common consideration for retailers looking to speed up operations.
Target is increasing the number of distribution centers it has working on replenishment. And American Eagle said a supply chain transformation with regional distribution hubs has allowed it to cut down on the average number of shipments per order.
This focus began prior to the pandemic as e-commerce companies prioritized faster delivery to customers.
As these network optimization projects are taking place, robotics are becoming increasingly common in warehouse operations. Earlier this month, DHL said it was expanding its work with Locus Robotics to include 2,000 robots in more than 20 locations.
What makes the Circle K use case unique is the fast flow of inventory with stores having to replenish their inventory once or even twice every day, Yu said.
The Geek+ system of using robots to move around racks of inventory is similar to the model used by Amazon Robotics and other companies like Fetch Robotics.
Yu noted that one of the benefits of this kind of system is it allows the inventory location to be easily changed within a warehouse. This means that as the Geek+ system collects more data from Circle K or another company, it can begin to learn what these fast-moving and high revenue items are and move them closer to the picking station to speed up the process.
Another benefit would be improved order-picking accuracy, Yu said. Geek+ highlights that its robots can help to achieve a 99.99% order-picking accuracy. The ability to use robots to approve picking accuracy is something highlighted by other robotics companies as well.
This story was first published in our weekly newsletter, Supply Chain Dive: Operations. Sign up here.