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Instacart to Build Robotic Fulfillment Centers

Signs multi-year strategic deal with Fabric as automation partner
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Instacart to Build Robotic Fulfillment Centers
Instacart has signed a multi-year deal with Fabric to pair its software and robotics with Instacart technology and shoppers to power a new fulfillment process within dedicated warehouses and existing retailer locations.

Instacart is going all in on automation by teaming up with a tech company called Fabric to build robotic fulfillment centers across the United States and Canada.

Instacart has signed a multi-year deal with Fabric to pair its software and robotics with Instacart technology and shoppers to power a new fulfillment process within dedicated warehouses and existing retailer locations.

The new process will aim to marry the speed of robotics with the human touch and attention to detail of Instacart shoppers, enabling faster fulfillment of customers’ full grocery shop from packaged goods, household essentials and produce to deli items, frozen food and alcohol. Once orders are carefully packed, shoppers will deliver orders to customers' doors or place them in staging areas for curbside pickup. Instacart plans to kick off early-stage concept pilots in partnership with Fabric and grocery retail partners over the coming year and beyond. 

“Instacart is proud to serve as the chief ally to retailers during a time when e-commerce in North America is poised for accelerated adoption. Our next-gen fulfillment initiative combines our robust technology suite and dedicated community of shoppers with robotics solutions to give retailers even more innovative ways to compete and serve their customers online. Our next-gen fulfillment work will also help reduce some of the things that make in-store shopping cumbersome for Instacart shoppers, like crowded store aisles, out of stock items and long checkout lines,” said Mark Schaaf, chief technology officer, Instacart. “Over the long-term, we believe partnering with retailers to bring next-gen fulfillment technologies together with the personal touch and care of Instacart’s shopper community will create an even more seamless online grocery experience that’s faster and more affordable for customers and delivers even more value and growth to retailers.”

The new partnership appears to offer grocers some intriguing possibilities, however Instacart and Fabric stopped short of providing key details about the launch of their next-gen fulfillment partnership. For example, the companies did not indicate how many dedicated facilities they plan to open, over what time frame, their approximate size or when a pilot location might become operational. 

“Everything about our micro-fulfillment solution has been built for speed, efficiency, and elasticity to meet today’s on-demand requirements. This partnership with Instacart is another validation that Fabric’s tech and operations are best-fit to serve retailers’ next-gen fulfillment needs,'' said Elram Goren, CEO and co-founder of Fabric. “Our software-led robotics and modular solution gives grocery retailers the flexibility to build the fulfillment solution that best fits the needs of their business. With Instacart as a partner, we see an enormous opportunity to integrate our product and services into Instacart’s e-commerce solutions to provide a compelling service offering for grocers. We’re excited to partner with Instacart as we continue to scale across North America and focus on unlocking more value for retailers and their customers.”

News of Instacart’s fulfillment initiative comes weeks after the company named a new CEO. Facebook veteran Fidji Simo, 35, becomes CEO on Aug. 2, reporting to Instacart's Board of Directors. Simo, who joined Instacart's Board of Directors in January, is a consumer technology industry veteran, having spent more than 15 years leading the operations, strategy and product development for some of the world's leading businesses.

Simo has been the mastermind behind many of Facebook's biggest launches, including News Feed, Stories, Groups, Video, Marketplace, Gaming, News, Dating, Ads and more. Simo is also extremely active in the diversity, equity and inclusion space. She is the co-founder of Women in Product, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women in product management, advancing the careers of women in technology and advocating for equal representation in the workplace.

Apoorva Mehta, Instacart's founder and current CEO, will transition to Executive Chairman of the Board, and will also report to Instacart's Board of Directors. Instacart’s Board also includes Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman; Daniel Sundheim, founder and CIO of D1 Capital Partners; Michael Moritz, partner at Sequoia Capital; Jeffrey Jordan, managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz; and Barry McCarthy, director and former CFO and global head of Advertising for Spotify.

Instacart is also considering going public through a direct listing, Reuters has reported. It has hired Goldman Sachs Group to lead its upcoming IPO, according to Reuters. Instacart raised $265 million in its latest round of funding, more than doubling its valuation to $39 billion in less than six months.

Instacart's new robotics solution adds to the company’s existing grocery e-commerce offerings. Those offerings include the Instacart marketplace, which features more than 600 national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names; Instacart Enterprise, the company’s white-label enterprise-grade technology solution; and Instacart Ads, which connects thousands of CPG brands directly to customers online. 

San Francisco-based Instacart partners with nearly 600 national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to offer delivery and pickup services from more than 45,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. Instacart is available to over 85% of U.S. households and 70% of Canadian households. 

Fabric is a retail technology company on a mission to enable on-demand retail, for everyone. The company has developed its own proprietary software and robotic mirco-fulfillment technology, and is running micro-fulfillment operations for grocery and general merchandise retailers in New York City, Washington D.C. and Tel Aviv. The company is planning to expand across five major U.S. metro areas in the coming months. 

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