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Kroger Automates, Expands Distribution Center

Retailer collaborates with Knapp to modernize Ohio location, adding 130,000 square feet
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Kroger Automates, Expands Distribution Center
Kroger’s Great Lakes Distribution Center uses Knapp OSR shuttles that deliver grocery cases in an exact sequence to the RunPick robotic palletizers.

The Kroger Co. has entered into a supply chain automation partnership with Knapp, an intelligent intralogistics solutions provider, to deploy, expand and enhance the capabilities and capacity of the retailer's existing Great Lakes Distribution Center, in Delaware, Ohio. The facility is currently being renovated to add modern state-of-the-art technology, which is expected to be completed this summer.

The distribution center opened in 2003 and currently services 115 stores in central and northwest Ohio, as well as southeast Michigan and the Ohio River Valley region. During the renovation, the facility will expand by 130,000 square feet bringing the total square footage to 943,825 and enabling performance increases for Kroger's supply chain network.

"Kroger's investment in Knapp's latest technology allows the Great Lakes Distribution Center to improve efficiency in replenishing our stores, enabling us to quickly deliver fresh food to our customers,” said Tony Lucchino, Kroger's VP of supply chain and network strategy. “The expansion of the facility is part of the ongoing transformation of our supply chain network, and this project will more than double our capacity while delivering innovation and scalability that can grow with demand."

The site uses a combination of Knapp OSR (order, storage and retrieval) shuttles that deliver grocery cases in an exact sequence to the RunPick robotic palletizers.

"The technology investment in the Great Lakes Distribution Center has been designed to add a new level of flexibility to the Kroger supply chain network and deliver a resilient approach to investments in automation," said Josef Mentzer, CEO of Knapp, which has its North American headquarters in Atlanta.

With approximately 5,000 employees worldwide, Knapp delivers intelligent automation and specialized software solutions in health care, retail, apparel, food, manufacturing and e-commerce sectors.

Delaware City Manager Tom Homan said of the expansion, "This transformation by Kroger will further improve the speed and service that the company delivers to its customers, and reaffirms Delaware's leading role in the region as a hub for logistics and distribution excellence."

Improving upon its service is something that Kroger has been very much focusing on of late. For example, although the grocer has no physical stores in Florida, it recently launched grocery delivery in the state.

Additionally, the retailer raised its full-year forecast on June 17, citing continued post-pandemic sales momentum. For the first quarter ended May 22, identical sales without fuel decreased 4.1% at Kroger, but the two-year stack increased 14.9%. Digital sales grew 16%, but the two-year stack grew 108%. The food retailer also reported an operating profit of $805 million, influenced by record alternative business growth fueled by its Retail Media and Kroger Personal Finance divisions. 

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 11 million-plus customers daily through a digital shopping experience and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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