Fresh Direct, which is a grocery delivery service like Peapod, delivers groceries in cardboard boxes to their customer’s doorsteps. For a while these were all manually packed and it was pretty ineffcient. The Times article claims they made 2 millions deliveries last year and used 5 million boxes. The average order consumed 3.5 boxes, because of the way their warehouses were setup, which is mutually exclusive (perishibles were packed in one place, non-perishibles in another, and they couldn’t be packed into the same box).
So someone who ordered a lot of nonperishable groceries with one piece of cheese would find the cheese in its own box, one as big as the boxes full of groceries,
So they’ve turned to technology to solve their problems:
So FreshDirect spent $1 million to install crossovers in the assembly-line-like system for collating and packing customers’ orders and reprogrammed its computer system to combine elements of small orders from the three areas.
“We had to write an enormous amount of code,” Mr. Ackerman said, “because any one of 10,000 products can go to any point at any time.”
In the future they won’t be using cardboard boxes at all. They will be moving to the same system that Peapod already uses here in Chicago and presumably elsewhere. Groceries are packed into plastic bags—Fresh Direct will use paper bags—and then loaded into reusable plastic bins to protect the bags during transport.