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United Natural Foods, Inc. in the United States has announced improved operating procedures, increased associate training programs, and the deployment of technological improvements, such as the rollout of Systems Application Enterprises, Inc. (SAE) scanning technology, as well as plans for a new Symbotic Inc. A.I.-powered robotics and software automation system to be installed at its 1.15 million square foot Centralia, Wash. distribution centre.

For the past year, UNFI has been working with SAE, a company that offers barcode-based business tools, to implement three of its core distribution technology solutions to help modernize UNFI’s distribution capabilities:

Selector Pro, which directs scan-based selection activities to improve order accuracy while providing real-time workforce visibility throughout the warehouse;

Loader Pro, which directs scan-based loading activities to ensure accuracy and efficiency of outbound deliveries; and

Driver Pro, which focuses on “proof-of-delivery,” providing scan-based validation that each customer order has been delivered accurately.

These tools are being utilized in 18 UNFI distribution centers today with plans to implement them into additional distribution centers over the balance of 2023 and 2024.

In September 2022, UNFI and Symbotic announced they had entered into a commercial agreement to implement Symbotic’s A.I.-powered robotics automation system at five UNFI distribution centres over a four-year period. UNFI’s Centralia distribution centre will be the first facility to receive the new automation systems.

Symbotic’s end-to-end solution provides robotic case pick capabilities and will be used within Centralia’s dry grocery area to enhance operational capabilities and efficiency, improve order accuracy for customers, and better organize products on pallets for an improved customer experience at the store level.

UNFI’s preparation work for the installation of the Symbotic automation system in Centralia is scheduled to begin later this month with plans for testing, training and the full rollout of the new system anticipated in 2024.

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