I had a chance to tour Coborn’s Delivers grocery delivery warehouse in New Hope, MN this past week. For Twin Cities residents, Coborn’s the company that purchased and revived Simon Delivers under their own brand after Simon Delivers failed to make a successful business out of local grocery delivery. The newly launched service has been open for just over 12 weeks.
This is what their warehouse looks like near dark on a cold evening:
Coborn’s was hosting a customer appreciation day that offered free tastings of local foods they carry along with a warehouse tour. How could I pass that up?
Grocery delivery seems to be something that people either jump into in a big way or don’t use at all. For those that are way into it, it can be a big time saver. For example, our tour guide, Dave Hartman (pictured below) said the average time their more loyal users take to shop for groceries is only 3 minutes 45 seconds.
Here are a few more nuggets about the business and warehouse:
– 185,000 sq ft
– 210 employees
– 7 temperature zones
– $129 / mo avg spend
– 40-41 items in an average order
The system is the background of the above picture is the tote reclaiming department where they clean up the returned totes before putting them back into circulation.
Here’s an example of a pick zone in the dairy section. Seventeen people staff this 3 level section. When a tote arrives, they scan it with the scanner gun. This illuminates lights below dairy items they need to pick for that tote:
This is Brian. He works in produce and is responsible for grading the quality of their product. The Coborn’s site has a rating feature that shows you which produce is particularly good on any given day. Fruit that doesn’t make the cut either goes to group homes (eg. bananas that have freckles) or to local pigs (damaged apples). Quite a bit of the damaged fruit looked pretty darn good. However, one of the biggest concerns they get from clients is whether they can trust other people to pick their fruit for them. This causes them to be extra picky.
Below is the machine used to pick dry goods like breads and cereals. It tells pickers when they’re near an items. Once picked, they scan it before placing it in the appropriate tote. Their top pickers are currently hitting accuracy rates in excess of one error per 20,000 items picked.
This photo reminds me of the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc:
They have a LOT of green totes:
Here are a few more nuggets:
– They have a slight lag in inventory status, so if you order at the very last minute there’s a chance one of your items may not be in the warehouse. They roll up the missing items into an order that’s sent to one of their retail grocery stores in Albertville where it’s picked off the shelves. If it’s still not available, they’ll try to find a substitute brand such as Hunts rather than Heinz ketchup. Lesson: don’t place your order at 10:59pm.
– Their fish is fresh. Really fresh. Online orders are sent to their fish supplier in real time. Fish arrive in MSP around midnight, are processed in a local plant, then get to Coborn’s warehouse around 2:45am. They don’t stock any fish at the warehouse.
– Thanks to the local companies who provided great samples of their offerings, including Peace Coffee and Finnegan’s beer. Frankly, I may stop buying Peace Coffee until they remove the stupid Flash intro from their website, but I really do love their beans.
– Update: I can’t spell. Thank to Alan for pointing out that Coburn is actual Coborn’s. Unrelated to the tour, but the homepage of Coburn Delivers warehouse is a hurting them. As of this writing, they don’t show up in the first 100 results for their company’s name. Not good. Coburn, if you’d like some help with that, let me know. I’d like to see you succeed or fail based on the quality of your food and service rather than technical issues like this.