- Micro-fulfillment pioneer Takeoff Technologies announced it has raised $25 million in Series C funding, equaling 5% of the company's $500 million valuation, according to a press release emailed to Grocery Dive. The capital infusion, led by current investor Forrestal Capital, will fuel Takeoff's expansion across North America, Europe and Australia. The company has raised $86 million to date.
- Takeoff also announced that next year it's rolling out an updated version of its automated warehouses that will process orders 6% faster and store more products. The facility will feature, according to the company, "a smaller and cleaner design of the [micro-fulfillment center’s] floorspace, allowing for easier construction and installation."
- Israeli firm CommonSense Robotics, which recently unveiled an underground micro-fulfillment shed, has rebranded as Fabric. The move is meant to convey the company's broader focus on last-mile logistics. Fabric also announced it has moved its headquarters from Tel Aviv, Israel to New York City and hired two new executives — CFO Patrick Davis, who has over 15 years of leadership experience in technology, and Chief Commercial Officer, Steve Hornyak, who brings 30 years of retail tech leadership experience to the job.
The premise behind micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) is simple enough: Improve the speed and efficiency of online order fulfillment while relieving pressure on store inventory. The execution, however, is very complex, requiring a high volume of e-commerce orders to become economically viable. Time will tell whether MFCs offer long-term savings and speed of fulfillment that justify their hefty upfront cost.
Takeoff, which currently operates several MFCs in partnership with Ahold Delhaize, Sedano's and Albertsons, says version 2.0 of its shed will utilize floor space with greater efficiency — promising savings that get passed along to the retailers it works with. Along with greater storage capacity, the warehouses will have so-called "open shuttles" rolling around and helping fill orders.
Takeoff recently opened its first standalone micro-fulfillment center, located in Clifton, New Jersey servicing 10 locations operated by Inserra Supermarkets and its ShopRite stores. The company had previously attached its automated centers to existing grocery stores, fulfilling for that particular location as well as others in the area. Its advanced artificial intelligence and robotics can assemble as many as 60 orders in just a few minutes.
Fabric didn't say specifically what aspects of last-mile logistics it will focus on. CEO Elram Goren noted in the release that the rebrand, "reflects our vision to transform last-mile logistics so that on-demand e-commerce becomes a profitable and scalable business for all retailers."
Fabric has been in discussions with U.S. retailers, and last year told Grocery Dive it planned to announce partnerships with five major grocers across this year and next.
On Sunday, analysts with IGD presented research at this week's Groceryshop conference in Las Vegas stating that global supply chain leaders see increasing operating costs as the number one challenge they currently face. According to IGD's survey, 86% of respondents say the complexity of supply chain operations has increased over the past five years.