A Grocery Store You’ve Never Heard of is About to be one of the Biggest in America

Friday in 5 – interesting news bits from around the supply chain horn, served up in one spot to keep you up to date.

This week: Aldi, a grocery store you’ve probably never heard of, says it plans to become the third-largest grocery chain in the U.S. by store count over the next four years, consumers are flocking to mobile commerce (m-commerce), which is set to drive mass adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in retail, IBM is pairing up with BMW to provide cloud-based data management, self-driving trucks will still need drivers, and micro-warehouses bring fulfillment closer to the customer.

A Grocery Store You’ve Never Head of is About to be one of the Biggest in America

Aldi says it has a plan to become the third-largest grocery chain in the U.S. by store count within the next four years. The discount chain is investing $3.4 billion to expand to 2,500 stores — up from 1,600 stores today — by 2022, the company said Monday. The aggressive expansion plan would make Aldi the third-largest supermarket chain, behind Walmart and Kroger.

M-Commerce Set to Drive Mass Adoption of Artificial Intelligence in Retail

Attracted by the convenience of shopping anytime, anywhere, consumers are flocking to mobile commerce (m-commerce). We think the shift to browsing and buying via smartphones will sustain e-commerce growth, as the convenience of mobile encourages more frequent online shopping. We also expect the consumer-led shift to m-commerce to prompt a wave of retailer investments in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

IBM Pairs With BMW to Market Connected Car Services

International Business Machines Corp. said Wednesday it is pairing with BMW to provide cloud-based data management for the German auto maker’s recently launched connected car initiative, a move by the centenarian tech giant to deepen its move into passenger vehicles. IBM is working to sign up auto makers for its cloud-computing platform and stake a claim in the burgeoning market for connecting passenger cars with customized services based on real-time vehicle performance. Last year, it announced a similar deal with General Motors Co. Connected vehicle data represent a rapidly emerging market for auto makers, which are cautiously moving to embrace the potential for revenue streams from service companies that are eager to tap into their large captive client base. For drivers, it opens the door to services tailored to their driving profiles.

Why Self-Driving Trucks Will Still Need Drivers

When Uber Technologies used a self-driving truck to run a load of Budweiser beer across 120 miles of Colorado last year, the feat gave the trucking industry a glimpse of a cost-saving driverless future. Yet many in the trucking industry believe these alarmist projections are premature. Loading docks are a prime area where software and robots face significant challenges. “The first problem is how to load a truck to optimize the utilization of the load,” said Matt Butler, director of solution strategy for JDA Software, a company that advises on supply chain planning. “How are you going to stack and position the pallets? That requires some human intervention today.”

Micro-Warehouses Bring Fulfillment Closer to Customer

Inventory is often delivered to warehouses in shipping containers. But what if you took the warehouse out of the equation and just built a fulfillment center inside the container itself? That’s the vision of Shotput, a San Francisco-based startup that’s looking to turn the traditional fulfillment model on its head. Designed for fast-growing e-commerce companies, Shotput’s model would offer an alternative to building out a traditional warehouse network. Instead of contracting for fixed storage space, an e-tailer could simply arrange to have a “micro-warehouse” installed in a location close to its customers and use high-end automated systems to fill complex orders on the spot.

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