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Walmart plans automated Market Fulfillment Centers at 2 Jacksonville stores (Courtesy of the Florida Times-Union) — In the early stages, Walmart plans to put automated Market Fulfillment Centers at two of its Jacksonville stores as it expands the technology nationwide with a goal of making shopping easier for customers while also competing with other retailers such as Amazon.

The fulfillment centers will be at the Walmart Supercenters at 13490 Beach Blvd. and 6767 103rd St.

“I can confirm these will be future market fulfillment center locations, but I don’t have any additional details to share at this time,” Camille Dunn, a Walmart spokeswoman said in an email to the Times-Union.

No building permits had been issued for either location as of Nov. 22, a check of city records showed.

A market fulfillment center (MFC) is “a small automated warehouse at a Walmart that is filled with thousands of frequently purchased items from groceries to games,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product, said in a company blog post on Walmart’s website.

The fulfillment centers use robotic technology and artificial intelligence to handle online orders, reported Supermarket News, which covers the retail food industry.

The centers either are inside a Walmart store or a building addition. Some can have automated pickup points for customer merchandise. Walmart hasn’t announced which model will be used in Jacksonville.

Ward described the process in the blog post. Instead of an employee walking the store aisles gathering a customer’s merchandise, “automated bots retrieve the items from within the fulfillment center.” 

The merchandise is taken to a workstation where it’s readied for customer pickup. Once the order is assembled, the system stores it until it’s ready to be picked up. The entire process can be completed within a few minutes, Ward noted in the blog.

“We’ve always said personal shoppers are the secret to our pickup and delivery success, and that remains true,” he said in the blog post. “So, while the system retrieves the order for assembly, a personal shopper handpicks fresh items like produce, meat and seafood, and large general merchandise from the sales floor.”

Photo courtesy of csoinc.com