In the bustling city of New York, grocery shopping can be time consuming. But now, grocery company FreshDirect promises to deliver within mere hours fruit, fish and bottles of water ordered online. It relies on its high-tech Bronx warehouse to keep up with demand.
Orders will always be ramping up ahead of Thanksgiving, when families across the US gather round the table for a huge feast. Everything at the FreshDirect depot is as well-regulated as a Swiss clock, thanks to the computer system.
On the ground, employees manage palettes, scan labels and sort products. But above their heads, huge orange and green plastic bins -- the company's signature colors -- seem to have a life of their own. They zip along on conveyor belts that spiral up to the ceiling, carrying the bins through countless levels of shelves.
The conveyor belts run for almost 15 kilometers, criss-crossing the 37,000 m2 depot. But their layout was designed to limit bins' trips, which last between 25 to 30 minutes on average. For small products, robots will pick them out one by one from the massive shelving units and bring them to one of six packing stations.
For fruits and vegetables, employees can see which products have been requested on tablets and employees set aside any that are damaged.
FreshDirect relies on 20 years of data accumulated since its launch in 1999. The company knows how to anticipate consumer habits as accurately as traffic patterns, including by accounting for weather conditions.