Picking and labor optimization give online grocery a competitive edge

E-groceries put a lot of value on picking and using advanced warehouse labor scheduling. The first is a simple way to improve picking efficiency, and the second helps retailers get a better idea of how many people are doing the picking so they can make more changes to improve efficiency.


Delivery accounts for between 9% and 16% of total supermarket sales. Within a more competitive industry, that's less than the overall restaurant industry. The supermarket industry is half as profitable as restaurants, with an average profit margin of 2% to 3%.

Delivery windows, Stock Keeping Unit assortments (SKUs), and keeping stock are just some of the  challenges being addressed by the industry in the near future. In order to satisfy both customer needs and the company's bottom line, last mile delivery businesses must find a middle ground.

Delivery windows

To have goods delivered immediately or set up for a later time, which is preferable? In contrast to fast-shipping grocers such as Gorillas, traditional retailers like Delhaize focus on larger, more expensive purchases. Customers, according to a recent study, preferred a specific order window to lightning-fast delivery.

In a limited time window, there is no room for error or flexing of shipments to the most efficient routes. Consumers, however, may look elsewhere if the window is too wide. Delivery accuracy is far more important to consumers than speed.

SKU load distribution

Whether a grocery delivery service has access to the hundreds of thousands of products found in the average local supermarket is an important consideration. On the other hand, instant grocery delivery companies prefer to keep things simple for their customers.

Trade-offs in inventory accuracy and the effect of various products on picking efficiency, for example, have an important impact on the productivity of operations when fulfilling large, complex orders.

Having stock

Consumers need to have access to products at all times. Supply chain challenges have become a major topic of discussion in the wake of the recent pandemic and Russia's economic sanctions. Problems like possible stock shortages and the looming recession are difficult to solve.

row of vegetables placed on multilayered display fridge

E-grocers use a variety of methods to reduce the time it takes to pick items in a traditional supermarket, including dark stores, microfulfillment centers (MCF), and highly automated central fulfillment centers (HCFC) (CFCs). If you live in a densely populated area, this MFC model can help you increase the number of items you can choose from the stores.

In-store picking

Picking on the shop floor in the retail store.

Warehouse in-store

Picking fast-moving SKUs in a separate area of the store, slow-moving SKUs are then picked in the store.

Robotic microfulfillment center

Automated MFC using pick robots, stand-alone or attached to the physical store

Dark store

Stand-alone facility with an optimized layout for online picking but not fully automated.

Traditional warehouse

A larger stand-alone facility allows for larger assortments, different degree of automation is possible.

Automated warehouse

stand-alone, large automated fulfillment center employing automation across different operations.

Picking & labor efficiency tweaks

Online retailers place a high value on the ability to pick multiple orders at once, as well as the use of advanced warehouse labor scheduling. The former is a simple way to increase picking efficiency, while the latter helps retailers better measure the workforce doing the picking in order to make additional efficiency tweaks.

As the picker's experience and the clarity of images provided on their handhelds go, so does search efficiency and the pick path for in-store picking. Electronic shelf tags, like the pick-to-light system used in warehouses, can improve search and picking efficiency by illuminating the shelves.

Pickers could use a version of Waze for warehousing, zipping from one light to the next and reducing traditional grocery store search times to levels comparable to an MCF.

Then there's the ever-changing issue of last-mile logistics. The use of drones, in-house fleets, and freelancers are all viable options. Moreover, they're prohibitively expensive options for meeting customer needs.


       if(window.strchfSettings === undefined) window.strchfSettings = {};
   window.strchfSettings.stats = {url: "",title: "Picking and labor optimization give online grocery a competitive edge",id: "4d71653b-58be-401f-b3cb-7354f4108065"};
           (function(d, s, id) {
     var js, sjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
     if (d.getElementById(id)) {window.strchf.update(); return;}
     js = d.createElement(s); = id;
     js.src = "";
     js.async = true;
     sjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, sjs);
   }(document, 'script', 'storychief-jssdk'))


How Does a Manufacturer Achieve Optimal Warehouse Demand Planning?


Warehouse Optimization Strategies: Order Picking

Get more insights