Mammoth new Kroger facility celebrated in Monroe: What to know about robots and delivery

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Jul. 31—Gov. Mike DeWine was present Friday for the official ribbon-cutting at Kroger's new $55 million, 335,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Monroe that will employ 400 people and already has several hundred small robots zipping around the facility moving groceries.

"What is a customer fulfillment center?" said Kroger's director of communications, Kristal Howard. "From a customer perspective, all you need to know is it's how you will get your groceries through Kroger delivery," either through kroger.com or the Kroger app.

Using exclusive technology from British-based online retailer Ocado Group, the facility is so technologically advanced, photography wasn't allowed during tours after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The complex began operations in early March, and already has delivered more than 30,000 orders.

One of several advantages the facility brings to Kroger is its ability to provide groceries to areas from north of Dayton to Northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana where the company doesn't have stores, as well as where it does have them.

Kroger on Thursday had a similar ceremony at its second such facility, in Groveland, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.

"We really believe that customers will always eat," said Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen. "Now, how they will eat will always change. And we aim to be there for the customer the way they eat, and Ohio and Cincinnati has always been a dear part of that. And obviously, Monroe is part of that as well."

McMullen said Kroger aims to double its digital business by 2023. That business now is $10 billion, with a goal of $20 billion, he said.

Company officials praised the state, its private JobsOhio development organization and southwest Ohio's REDI Cincinnati development group for the location choice.

"We're still hiring," announced Gabriel Arreaga, senior vice president of supply chain for Kroger.

The company said drivers, who are also expected to provide customer service, are paid $19 per hour plus benefits.

Matt Davis, the operation's general manager, said it was gratifying "to be the first, to set history, not just in Cincinnati, but kind-of American, history within the industry, opening up the facility, first of its kind."

The group is so proud of its pioneering facility that when Davis ends meetings, the groups together say "Safety first, and then in unison — loudly — 'launch.'"

He had the news conference audience, including DeWine, together say, "launch."

There are advantages of using the service, company officials said. For one thing, said Brian Johnson, inventory control supervisor, when a customer orders an apple, "We've got the best apple going out to you." That's because the service has to meet expectations of its pickiest customers.

Refrigerated and frozen foods always remain that way, from when they enter the facility, until they arrive at a customer's door in trucks that have refrigerated and non-refrigerated areas.

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