Kroger Robot centers coming soon

by Maria Hartas, DCMME Center Graduate Assistant

Kroger Co., the largest U.S. grocery retailer, in partnership with Ocado, a dedicated online grocery retailer, will be opening two high-tech customer fulfillment centers (CFCs) in the Central Florida and Mid-Atlantic regions. The facilities will be equipped with digital and robotic capabilities following Kroger’s first CFC, also known as a “shed”, which will be operating in Monroe, OH.

Kroger and Ocado are changing the retail-service industry by leveraging robotics technology in response to growing e-commerce purchasing habits. AI-enabled robots capable of quickly fulfilling high volume orders will efficiently supply click-and-collect orders, presumably in a more accurate, timely, and cot efficient assembly process.

With a commitment to build 20 CDCs, powered by Ocado, Kroger plans to advance the company’s ability to provide customers with anything, anytime and anywhere through the applications of AI and robotic technologies.

Can robots go grocery shopping?

How does AI advance e-commerce?

What is driving retail-service industry wide changes?


Exoskeletons at Ford

Ford is one of many companies using wearable technology to ease the burden for assembly workers. Exoskeletons are ergonomic devices that can reduce fatigue and aid in protecting workers from repetitive strenuous motion. The wearable technology at first was mostly intended for industrial usage, however the military and medical fields are finding its applications appealing.  

Exoskeleton applications

Examples of practical wearable technology applications include magnetic lift assists, articulating arms, hydraulic lift tables and weld positioners.

Magnetic lift assists transform a heavy task into a light or even a weightless one becoming popular in the industrial workplace.

Articulating arms remove the weight of the machine in drilling, trapping or grinding activities enhancing the accuracy and reducing the time to compete the operation.

Hydraulic lift tables enable workers to position work at a convenient and efficient height eliminating physical strains – bending, lifting, stretching – related to machine feeding applications.

Weld positioners enable a welder to avoid strenuous physical positioning by protecting vulnerable body parts.

Exoskeletons offer a protecting shield from repetitive motion making assembly workers safer, more precise and productive.

What are the benefits of wearable technology?

Can wearable technology enhance employee performance?

What are exoskeleton applications?


3D printing to support additive manufacturing

3D printing of functional parts might be a solution for creating, integrating and validating custom engineered material for additive manufacturing, as announced by the manufacturing services provider, Jabil.

Recognized in the industry for the company’s contribution in materials science innovations, Jabil is advancing the additive manufacturing market. 3D printing challenges include part quality and materials, as well as longer than desired processing times for custom materials; Jabil is addressing the latter by offering 3D printed materials in weeks – not months.

An integrated MPM solution matching part performance with application requirements will enable the company to evaluate, qualify and validate materials alongside certified machines and processes. Reducing processing times and cost to produce parts could transform additive manufacturing applications in a variety of industries, such as aerospace, automotive, industrial and healthcare.

Providing complete 3DP solutions from a new Material Innovation Centre in Minnesota, coupled with customer consultation from additive manufacturing engineers, chemists, materials scientists and production experts, Jabil would be providing 3D solutions from the prototyping to production of engineered materials faster than ever before.  Questions:

Is 3D printing a solution in additive manufacturing?  

Which industries can benefit from 3D printing applications?

How is Jabil reducing 3D printing processing times? S

Grocery shopping with Robots

173 supermarkets across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia are introducing a robot called Marty on their sales floors. Ahold Delhaize USA, the parent company of Giant Food Stores, has reported positive pilot feedback from customers and employees after bringing robotic and A.I. technologies close to everyone in the grocery store aisles. 

Will robots replace humans?

The answer to this question is, no. Marty is programmed to autonomously roam around the store, communicate potential hazards to customers and alert employees through the PA system. Freeing up employees’ hands and time from walking around the store preforming routine checks, such as looking out for spills on the floor, team members will have more time to engage and assist customers.

As shared by Nick Bertram, president of Giant, “As much as [Marty] replaces that task, it doesn’t replace those people”.

Making the robot more humanlike, Marty is 6’3″ with googly eyes that attracted customers’ and employees’ attention. More robots will be rolled out in the first six months of 2019.


Will robots replace humans?

How can robots enhance your shopping experience?

Can robotic and A.I. technologies be part of everyday life?

Blockchain digitally transforming B2B processes

by Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant

A blockchain pilot program has successfully been completed between Elemica, the leading Digital Supply Network for Process Manufacturer, and crossinx, a network for financial business collaboration solutions. The pilot program aims to redefine B2B processes and support multiple industry digital transformation.

The program consists of the two companies existing as nodes on a public blockchain connecting structures data with unstructured data. Additionally, two global chemical companies partook in transferring invoice, purchase order, delivery tender, and proof-of-delivery documents and data.

Further testing blockchain capabilities could enable a many-to-many connection of companies. Connecting to a digital network, supply chain data can be shared with all trading partners regardless of the network each is connected to. As expressed by crossinx CEO and founder Marcus Laube, the goal is “To use the blockchain to automate document exchange along the supply chain and make it more transparent. This is the basis for our Supply Chain Finance solution”.

A many-to-many connection with blockchain could lead to the:

  1. Ability to decentralize and free-up from intermediaries the exchange information between different stakeholders
  2. Simplification and enhancement of existing business processes
  3. Development of auto-ordering based on IoT information
  4. Automation of PO confirmations
  5. Creation of auto-invoice based on Pickup or PoD
  6. Auto-matching of invoices
  7. Ability of auto-payments
  8. Extension of technology to other complementary decentralized networks and from IoT devices

The pilot program will continue to push blockchain applications before full adoption of the technology.

  1. Can you think of alternative ways to solve potential Supply Chain Finance bottlenecks (manual order creation, invoice matching, payment generation/confirmation, and so on)?
  2. How can multiple shareholders avoid intermediaries in sharing documents and data?
  3. What are the benefits of blockchain technology in creating a shared network?



AI transforming driving for hearing-impaired drivers

Multinational automotive manufacturer, Hyundai, is currently testing an artificial intelligence-based technology that aims to aid hearing-impaired drivers.

Sounds are converted using software and hardware into visual and tactile cues that drivers can read. Sounds patterns are analyzed using AI and sent to two systems: the Audio-Visual Conversion (AVC) and the Audio-Tactile Conversion (ATC). The first system, AVC, converts sounds into pictograms on the head-up display of the car, while ATC transforms sounds into physical cues, such as sending vibrations through the steering wheel.

The first hearing-impaired taxi driver test has been ongoing as of December 2018 in Seoul. Hyundai is in the process of adapting technology to help drivers overcome an impairment, expanding the use of systems from complementing driver experiences to enhancing and promoting driver safety. 

How can automotive manufacturing companies benefit from AI?  

How is technology solving problems in the automotive industry?

How does AI improve driver safety?



Blockchain technology in developing microgrids


By Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant 

Microgrids have transformed the transmission of electricity, and South Korea’s largest power utility company Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) plans to augment this system using blockchain technology. 

The company’s project, “KEPCO Open Micro Grid Project”, will reportedly integrate energy and blockchain technologies with the existing microgrid system. The KEPCO Open MG power source is a fuel cell which addresses the current difficulty in supplying stable power. Unlike consisting of photovoltaics, wind turbines, and energy storage devices, the improved microgrid will be using power-to-gas technology. Converting excess electricity into hydrogen, which can be converted to electric energy through fuel cell, will provide a continuous supply of power.

Blockchain use case

The KEPCO Open MG will implement its blockchain to remove the existing bottleneck created by attempting to connect different microgrids. Eliminating the existence of multiple technical standards by separate providers could potentially enable network operators, customers and energy stakeholders to be more efficient in connecting operationally.

How can blockchain technology increase energy efficiency?

How could a microgrid be developed using blockchain technology?

How is blockchain technology driving energy conversion?