Why The World's First Underground Automated Warehouse Represents The Future For Retail
Author: Andrew Busby
You may not have heard of the Shalom Meir Tower, I confess I hadn't, until recently that is. But the Shalom Meir Tower is set to take its place in history. Here's why.
It's something which will soon come to define brands and retailers. Once it was within a week, then within three days, then next day, then same day and now, the prospect of delivery within the hour is upon us.
Let's face it, when we want something, we not only want it but we want it now. Not 48 hours, not tomorrow, but now. And thanks to an otherwise unassuming underground car park in Tel Aviv, that vision is set to become a reality.
In the bowels of a tower block in the center of the city, a game-changer is being born. Something which could shape the very nature of inner city e-commerce: the world's first automated underground warehouse.
Grocery e-commerce is both a challenge and an opportunity - how do you get high quality orders to your customers really fast, without losing money? Automation solves the economics, but it's only one part of the puzzle. The real key here is bringing that automation really close to your customers so that delivery distances are just a few miles.
The brainchild of CommonSense Robotics, the concept is brilliant in its simplicity. By leveraging underutilized space, the underground warehouse represents an ingenious way for retailers to satisfy the ever-increasing consumer expectation and demand.
One hour grocery delivery has suddenly become a reality in both operational and commercial senses. The facility will be able to fulfill fresh, ambient, chilled and frozen items.
Not Just Underground Car Parks
Could utilizing disused city spaces such as this become the new model for e-commerce? In many ways it makes perfect sense. As more and more of us become city dwellers, existing supply chains will struggle to cope with demand.
According to the United Nations, currently 55% of the world's population live in urban areas, by 2050 that figure will have risen to 68%. Not only that, but the growth in the global population means that by 2050 an additional 2.5 billion people will be living in urban areas.
And they'll all need feeding. Couple that with the increase in on demand e-commerce and the need for efficient re-purposing of existing space becomes all too clear.
"One of the biggest challenges in urban areas is finding affordable real estate that is really close to customers, and that’s why a flexible automation solution that can fit into any type of space is so important. You don’t want to be sacrificing on customer proximity just because the automation doesn’t quite fit - whether it's a stand alone piece of real estate or part of a retailers’ existing store", said Elram Goren, CEO and Co-Founder of CommonSense Robotics.
The proprietary robotics and artificial intelligence technology utilized in the solution opens up the opportunity to even use existing empty high street stores as mini distribution centers.
This in turn means that real new growth could soon be coming to our high streets. Retail existing in harmony with hospitality, wellness, residential and - fulfillment.
It's an interesting thought and one that could just be part of the new chapter in the evolution of the high street.