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Industry terms definedDemystifying e-Grocery technology

The next paradigm in food retailing is here. These are the terms you need to know in order to understand this breakthrough technology.

3D Robot
Your e-Grocery Labor Force
Self-Service Order Pickup
Micro Fulfillment Center
Profitable e-Grocery


Defining industry terms to educate and inform the growing industry of automated grocery fufillment.


Terms related to e-grocery



Terms related to micro-fulfillment centers

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Terms related to operations

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Terms related to Retail

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Terms related to robotics

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Supply Chain

Terms related to supply chain

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These key terms are essential to understanding e-Grocery technology

A mobile robot that can travel in one horizontal dimension.
A mobile robot that can travel in both horizontal dimensions, but not vertically.
A mobile robot that can travel in 3 dimensions, the two horizontal dimensions and vertically. Alphabot is an an example of a 3D robot.
This is another term for a drive up window where an order is automatically presented to a customer or delivery service driver.
An automated system that contains product inventory so that customer orders can be picked into order totes. It also stores completed orders and, at the appropriate time, dispenses those orders for either cusomer pickup at store or delivery to home.
An automated system that typically stores completed orders and then, at the appropriate time, dispenses those orders for either customer pickup or delivery.
A generic term for a system that automatically stores items in a repository and can also retrieve them. The Alphabot system is an ASRS, but with additional functionality as well.
The traditional definition for an AMR is a robot that travels in X and Y horizontally but not vertically and travels freely along the warehouse floor with safeguards for potentially interacting with human traffic. Generally fitted with attachments to facilitate single, multi- or batch order picking for both goods-to-person and person-to-goods picking.
Customer places order online, but drives to store to pick up the order versus home delivery.
Means placing an order online (‘click’) and driving to the store to collect the order. Similar to BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store).
Cube or Hive systems are densely packed automated tote storage systems. They have the theoretical highest density of product per square foot of building but not necessarily highest pick rate or order throughput. Not well suited for efficiently handling orders that combine high velocity and slow moving items.
The process of picking an individual item.
Individual items versus a full case. One box of cereal versus a case of cereal.
A system that delivers product to an order picker or customer at a retail pick-up location.
The very last step of the delivery process when a parcel is moved from a transportation hub or warehouse to its final destination, usually a personal residence or retail store.
The time between when an order is submitted and when it is ready for pick up or delivery. This is especially relevant as customer expectations move from placing an order the day before picking it up to same day (1-2 hr) pick up or delivery. This is a forecasting and inventory management challenge. Make sure the solution fits the real-world!
A Walmart term, others may use MFC (micro-fulfillment center) as an analogous term. It includes an automated replenishment system to provide automated picking of orders, storage and dispense at the store level. But it can also acts as a hub for picking orders for other stores in the area and for Remote Automated Dispense sites.
A geographically local distribution center (DC) that is part of the Novastore architecture. The MDC sits between the DC and store. The MDC serves many stores in a region and provides less than case level replenishment in tote/subtotes to stores in that area. The key advantage of the MDC is more efficient replenishment of stores than traditional case-level replenishment.
MFCs are automated fulfillment centers, with footprints typically ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet, with some as small as 5,000 square feet. They can be co-housed inside an existing store or placed in a smaller warehouse space in an urban location.
This is an Alert Innovation term for a store architecture and associated supply chain logistics. The strict definition for Novastore is as follows: a supermarket with an automated packaged-goods market (a.k.a. “center store”) and an optional self-service fresh-goods market (a.k.a. “perimeter departments”). It automates the center store and allows the grocer to focus on customer experience with produce, meat, dairy, bakery, cafe, etc. A key component of the Novastore architecture is each level replenishment in sub-totes from a Market Distribution Center (MDC) to the store.