News Briefs

03/21/2022

Chipotle Tests Autonomous AI Kitchen Assistant

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chippy

Chipotle Mexican Grill will soon employ an autonomous kitchen assistant with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips.

"We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience. Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle's crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer, Chipotle.

Chipotle's culinary and technology teams called on MISO ROBOTICS to customize its latest robotic solution, named Chippy, to cook and freshly season Chipotle's tortilla chips.Chipotle's culinary team guided Miso in tailoring its technology to maintain the culinary integrity of the brand.

Leveraging artificial intelligence, Chippy is trained to replicate Chipotle's exact recipe – using corn masa flour, water and sunflower oil – to cook chips to perfection, season with a dusting of salt, and finish with a hint of fresh lime juice.  It was imperative that the technique remained the same.

"Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime," said Nevielle Panthaky, VP of Culinary, Chipotle. "To ensure we didn't lose the humanity behind our culinary experience, we trained Chippy extensively to ensure the output mirrored our current product, delivering some subtle variations in flavor that our guests expect."

Chippy is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center, Chipotle's innovation hub in Irvine, CA, and will be integrated into a Chipotle restaurant in Southern California later this year. The company is leveraging its stage-gate process to listen, test and learn from crew and guest feedback before deciding on a national implementation strategy.

"When Chipotle challenged us to see if our technology could meet the brand's high standards for culinary quality, we couldn't wait to flex our engineering and design muscles," said Mike Bell, CEO, Miso Robotics. "This partnership will allow us to move into new territory to help improve back-of-house functions and assist team members with their day-to-day responsibilities."  

An innovator in restaurant technology, Chipotle continues to invest in emerging solutions to support its growing digital business and reduce friction in its restaurants. The company believes technology deployed consistently and correctly can improve the human experience. Chipotle already leverages artificial intelligence with its concierge chat bot, Pepper. Pepper ensures guests have an exceptional experience on the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com. Chipotle customers can select from frequently asked questions or ask their own questions to get a response quickly. Chippy joins Pepper in Chipotle's artificial intelligence suite to improve Chipotle's overall guest and employee experience.

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03/17/2022

Zebra Technologies Expands Portfolio with Automation Firm Acquisition

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Robotics being used in supply chain

Zebra Technologies is acquiring Matrox Imaging for $875 million, bringing into the fold automation and vision technology. Recent IT investments also include robotics and machine learning. 

[Related: Boosting Supply Chain Challenges Through Advanced Technologies: Up Close with Zebra Technologies' Guy Yehiav]

Matrox Imaging’s software development kits, smart cameras, 3D sensors, vision controllers, input/output cards, and frame grabbers are used to capture, inspect, assess, and record data from industrial vision systems in factory automation, electronics and pharmaceutical packaging, semiconductor inspection, and more. 

Anders Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Zebra Technologies, said the acquisition will enable them to meet evolving consumer needs across the automation journey, including production and the movement of goods and materials. 

According to the company, the purchase will expand Zebra’s recently launched fixed industrial scanning and machine vision portfolio and grow its focus in software, machine learning, and deep learning.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval and is expected to close in 2022. 

 

03/17/2022

Google Launches Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API

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Google has launched Last Mile Fleet Solution from Google Maps Platform and Cloud Fleet Routing API from Google Cloud—two new solutions to help fleet operators improve delivery success and optimize fleet performance. 

The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce adoption and strained supply chains, while consumer expectations around delivery speed and visibility have reached an all-time high. At the same time, last-mile delivery is estimated to make up more than half of total shipping costs. This means last-mile fleet operators have to work harder to create better consumer experiences and improve their operations. Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API help fleet operators address these challenges through an integrated suite of mapping, routing, and analytics capabilities.  

Cloud Fleet Routing API focuses on the route planning phase of delivery and allows operators to perform advanced fleet-wide optimization, enabling them to determine the allocation of packages to delivery vans and the sequencing of the delivery tasks. Natively integrated with Google Maps routes data, Cloud Fleet Routing API can solve simple route planning requests in near-real-time, and scale to the most demanding of workloads with parallelized request batching. Across this spectrum, customers can specify a variety of constraints, such as time windows, package weights, and vehicle capacities. Cloud Fleet Routing runs on the cleanest cloud in the industryand can help carriers meet sustainability targets by reducing distance traveled, number of delivery vans, and CO2 output from computing.

Last Mile Fleet Solution focuses on delivery execution and allows fleet operators to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, from ecommerce order to doorstep delivery. The solution also helps businesses create exceptional delivery experiences for consumers and provides drivers the tools they need to perform at their best when completing tasks throughout the day. It builds on the On-demand Rides & Deliveries mobility solution from Google Maps Platform, which is already used by leading ride-hailing and on-demand delivery operators around the world. 

When implemented together, Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API allows businesses to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, with features such as: 

  • Address capture to help obtain an accurate address and location for each pickup or delivery. 

  • Route optimization to help ensure drivers are provided with routes that optimize around the fleet's constraints—including delivery time windows—and adapt based on real-time traffic.

  • Driver routing & navigation to deliver a seamless driver experience and improve route compliance with in-app navigation powered by Google Maps.

  • Shipment tracking to keep consumers updated with live, day-of shipment tracking, including up-to-date location and arrival times of customer packages. 

  • Fleet performance to enable visibility into real-time route progress and shipment insights for operations teams.

“The pandemic further accelerated both e-commerce and the number of deliveries, which were already growing rapidly. The increased strain on delivery networks, plus many other factors like driver shortages, poor address data, factory closures, and an increase in fuel prices have impacted delivery time and success,” said Hans Thalbauer, managing director, Global Supply Chain & Logistics Industries, Google Cloud. “With Google Maps Platform’s Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API, we’re making it easier for delivery fleet operators to address these issues and create seamless experiences for consumers, drivers, and fleet managers.” 

To learn more about Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API, register for an upcoming Google Cloud Spotlight event, “Shining a light on supply chain and logistics.” 

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03/16/2022

Macy’s New Brand Platform Centers on Personalization

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Macy's

Macy’s is launching a brand platform that centers on personalization both in store and online.

The “Own You Style” platform will help customers “discover and express their unique personal style by connecting them with products, advice, inspiration and great value.” Powered by a digitally led omnichannel experience, starting in March, “Own Your Style” will become fully integrated across all customer touchpoints including macys.com, Macy’s app, social media and stores.

“Style is unique to the individual. We will help our customers express their personal style through personalized data-driven recommendations and expert advice that will differentiate us in a cluttered marketplace,” said Rich Lennox, chief brand officer of Macy’s. “This brand transformation will enhance our customer’s shopping experience with more personal touchpoints and offer them true value and style that they can own.”

The new brand platform is a key step within the company’s Polaris strategy and will include digital and social-first experiences, branded content, sequenced storytelling, in-person expert advice and personalized data-driven recommendations.

The website will see a refresh with simplified global navigation, a modern search bar and a personalized customer dashboard. The online experience will be centered around the new Own Your Style hub, a curated destination for style inspiration. Additionally, elevated digital shopping experiences will feature product carousels highlighting different categories plus new product photos grids that showcase items in a new and engaging layout with product videos.

In stores, Macy's is reintroducing its Style Crew, training associates to be in-house experts who will be eligible to earn commission. Style crew members post unique shoppable video and photo content to their own social and digital channels for customers to discover new product in an informational, fun and engaging way. Customers can click through the Style Crew members posts and land on macys.com to complete their shopping journey.

Stores will also feature monthly Own Your Style and Now Trending pavilions curated with must-have products and key items. Customers will receive style guidance from digital screens throughout the store featuring style inspiration, as well as visual product displays including shoes and bags cross merchandised with outfits to provide style advice directly on the floor.

03/14/2022

Walmart Kicks off Sourcing Event With Early Access Period for Marketplace Sellers

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Walmart opened the application period for its 9th annual Open Call event, but gave Marketplace sellers first crack at submitting their U.S. made, grown or assembled products.

For the first time in the program’s nine-year history, Walmart offered an exclusive early access period for Marketplace sellers to apply for Open Call, resulting in more than 2,000 companies registering more than 6,000 items they hope to present to merchants. If selected, participants will be able to choose from virtual or in-person pitch meetings with a Walmart or Sam’s Club merchant during the June 28-29 event.

Open Call is Walmart’s largest sourcing event that aims to bring shelf-ready products to shoppers across the country, both in-store and online. Walmart Open Call 2022 is powered by RangeMe and ECRM Connect. This year, Walmart is offering mentoring sessions to all applicants registering for the event to provide tools to become successful selling on Walmart’s virtual and physical shelves. Applications for the two-day hybrid event will be accepted through April 8. Businesses wishing to apply for this year’s Open Call event can apply here.

“We know how much supporting American products and American jobs truly does matter to our suppliers, entrepreneurs, sellers and local communities,” says Laura Phillips, Walmart senior vice president for Global Sourcing & U.S. Manufacturing. “With all the new tools and resources available this year, we’re hoping we can foster growth for many more businesses and Walmart Marketplace sellers that already work with us, along with those that are just getting started.”

Applicants who receive a one-on-one product pitch meeting invitation will be given 30 minutes to showcase to Walmart and/or Sam’s Club merchants why their product and business should join the Walmart family. Entrepreneurs can secure deals ranging from supplying products to a handful of local stores to supplying hundreds of Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs as well as Walmart.com. In addition to the product pitch meetings, Open Call includes breakout sessions featuring Walmart and Sam’s Club leaders and special guests to provide suppliers and sellers with valuable insights and to offer additional resources available.

03/09/2022

BJ’s to Open Innovation Lab Store

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BJ’s is opening four new warehouse clubs in the Eastern United States, the first phase of its 2022 development plans, and one location will serve as an innovation lab for the retailer.

The four new clubs will be located in Warwick, RI, Lady Lake, FL, Canton, MI, and Greenburgh, NY.

“We continue to accelerate our expansion and we’re excited to open these new locations,” said Bill Werner, executive vice president, strategy and development, BJ’s Wholesale Club. “We’re always looking for ways to bring the value and convenience of a BJ’s membership to more shoppers, and extending our reach is a major way of achieving that.”

The Warwick, RI, club, dubbed BJ’s Market, will serve as an innovation lab. BJ’s Market will allow for testing out new assortments, displays, product demonstrations and convenience initiatives.

The new clubs in Florida, Michigan and New York will feature an extensive selection of fresh foods, a full-service deli and household essentials, plus an assortment of fashion for the family, seasonal items, toys, hot tech and local products.

Each new BJ’s Wholesale Club is expected to create approximately 150 jobs for their respective communities, and BJ’s Market will create around 50 jobs for the respective community. The company will be hiring for all locations and those interested can visit BJs.com/careers.