Instacart plans to replace its gig shoppers with hundreds of ROBOTS in a bid to slash costs and service time
- Instacart documents show it is looking to replace humans shoppers with robots
- The move aims to cut costs, as customers pay 25% more when using the service
- Instacart would also build fulfilment centers across the US with robots
- This would include centers attached to stores and stand-alone structures
- Robots would gather boxed and canned items in the fulfilment centers
- Human shoppers would also be present to collect produce and deli items
Instacart contracts hundreds of thousands of gig workers to fulfill customers’ grocery orders, but the firm is working on replacing a number of human shoppers with robots in a bid to compete with Amazon’s automated fulfillment service.
The news, unearthed in company documents obtained by Bloomberg, states Instacart is eyeing automation as a way to cut costs for customers and help it form stronger relationships with supermarket chains.
According to people familiar with the matter, the firm’s strategy includes building an unknown number of automated fulfillment centers across the US, with some attached to existing grocery stores.
Others would be standalone facilities that complete orders for several surrounding grocery stores.
Robots would gather non-perishable goods, while human workers would collect produce and deli items in Instacart fulfilment centers.
An Instacart spokesperson told DailyMail.com: ‘We’re constantly exploring new tools and technologies that support the needs of the 600 retailers we partner with and further enable their businesses to grow and scale over the long-term.
‘Shoppers are and will continue to be central to Instacart and our service, and any suggestion otherwise is wholly inaccurate.’
Instacart employs hundreds of thousands of gig workers to fulfil customers’ grocery orders, but internal documents show the firm is working on replacing a number of human shoppers with robots
Bloomberg reports the documents it received were dated in July and December 2020, which suggests Instacart has been working on the plan for nearly a year.
The documents also reveal Instacart was set to test fulfillment centers in 2020, but the firm is behind schedule.
It also has yet to sign on a supermarket chain or strike a deal with a robotics company to build the technology.
Amazon purchased Kiva Systems (later renamed Amazon Robotics) in 2012 for $775 million to perform these tasks in its warehouses. As of 2019, it had more than 200,000 robots in their warehouses, according to The Washington Post.
Instacart currently offers orders to gig workers who travel to a nearby grocery store and then scan items on the customer’s shopping list.
According to people familiar with the matter, the firm’s strategy includes building fulfillment centers across the US, with some attached to existing grocery stores and others as standalone facilities that complete orders for several surrounding grocery stores
The model has shot the firm up in popularity, but becoming America’s second largest grocery delivery service comes with a hefty price tag.
Marc Wulfraat, president of the logistics consulting firm MWPVL International Inc., told Bloomberg that with delivery fees, price markups and added tips, customers are paying up to 25 percent more when ordering through Instacart.
Speaking to Bloomberg, an Instacart spokeswoman declined to provide specifics but said the company is ‘committed to supporting our brick-and-mortar partners and continuing to invest in and explore new tools and technologies that support the needs of their customers and further enable their businesses to grow and scale over the long-term.’
Instacart may be behind schedule, but the documents obtained suggest a network of stand-alone fulfillment centers could complete more than 3,500 orders a day.
This would involve more than 700 robots and about 160 human works collecting items throughout facilities.
However, the firm is also considering smaller centers that attach to grocery stores to complete more than 700 orders a day with the use of 150 robots and 40 humans working at each.