A planned retail chain is taking a page from the fast food industry's book. AutoCart wants to become the world's first drive-through supercenter chain. The company envisions opening 1,500 outlets in the United States over the next decade, offering everything from groceries to banking to dry cleaning on a drive-up basis.
The first one is scheduled to be built by the first quarter of next year, somewhere in the Midwest. Shoppers will be equipped with a wireless device that attaches to a car's steering wheel and lets them select items on a touch screen. A lift will deliver the order to the customer's car.
The supercenters are designed for errand shoppers--those who want to stop by the bank, pick up dry cleaning, and get groceries in one trip. Now, they'll only have to go to one place.
AutoCart tapped FKI Logistex for its automated warehouse management system, which will handle product flow and throughput. The system includes software modules that handle the picking of products, separate items into totes on conveyors, and manage delivery of totes to customers' cars. A main host system ties to point-of-sale terminals at order stations. "The only thing we can't control is how fast it will take a customer to make up their mind," AutoCart president Steve Beardsley says.
FKI Logistex's system will notify AutoCart when inventory is running low. "It's not any different from any large distribution center for one of the major retailers," says Al Jervinsky, a systems sales manager at FKI Logistex. "Only instead of sending the items to a truck, we're sending them directly to the customer."
Illustration by Christoph Hitz