Reuters reports that Ahold Delhaize plans to “roll out small, automated warehouses to speed order picking and cut delivery times … as it revamps its ecommerce business in response to rising competition in a fast-growing sector.”

Essentially, the story says, the move will “allow it to automate order collection at mini ‘robot supermarkets’ attached to the stores of its U.S. chains like Stop & Shop.” The approach is said to be a shift from the company’s previous strategy of using manual labor at large distribution centers, or some combination of human beings and robotics for order picking.

The new warehouses are being developed in partnership with Takeoff, which also recently went into business with Albertsons to automate the picking process.

The story notes that Ahold Delhaize-owned Peapod, which provides e-commerce services for the company’s US-based chains, will be able to use the new facilities to improve its offerings: “Peapod has only offered next-day delivery so far. The partnership with Takeoff will enable the group to offer same-day delivery, or click-and-collect, initially to customers living near a pilot warehouse at a Shop & Stop in Connecticut.”

Reuters writes that “the warehouses serve as condensed supermarkets that can supply several stores with click-and-collect orders. They cost about $3 million to build, which Takeoff says is less than the cost of a typical store revamp.”

KC's View: This is smart and emblematic of what businesses have to do - they need to find ways to be as flexible as possible, to create a variety of solutions that be adapted to different competitive situations. One-size-fits-all approaches almost never work anymore. Whether it is Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize or Sedano’s, we’re seeing a variety of companies looking for ways to adapt to the new hyper-competitive environment.