The average grocery shopping trip takes 41 minutes. If you multiply that by the 1.5 trips per week average, that’s over 53 hours per year you’re spending in the grocery store − more than one working week. However, the online grocery shopping market has been picking up fast in the last few years. Around a quarter of American households already buy some groceries online, and more than 70% will engage with online food shopping within 10 years. Looking towards Europe − almost half (48%) of Brits are online grocery shoppers. One in ten (11%) do all of their grocery shopping online. According to a recent report by Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, the online grocery shopping market is expected to grow five-fold over the next decade.
The only obstacle to more rapid growth is the last mile delivery of perishable goods on time. Now, some clever Estonians have come up with a solution and are picking up speed in the growth of their own company Cleveron.
Today, Cleveron is an innovation leader in robotics-based parcel terminals, having just recently entered the US market with about 100 pick-up terminals at Walmart stores. The company is growing fast − entering new markets and coming up with new innovative products. It’s a one-stop-shop from product design, hardware engineering and software development to assembly and maintenance of the parcel delivery stations. The next step is to bring the smart delivery stations to people’s homes to make life even more convenient and save time. The prototype of the new robot Cleverpod is ready and the company plans to start production next year.
Founder and Chairman of the board Arno Kütt explains: “In the future, robots will take over more tasks from people, especially the less smart tasks that people really don’t like doing anyway. Our challenge is to help people save time so that the customer doesn’t need to wait for the delivery but rather vice versa.
We have been talking about the fridge ordering your groceries for ten years now. I’m not sure when this will actually happen but what I am sure about is that if you order the milk it can be delivered and waiting for you when you come home from work.”
Cleveron has provided 470 parcel pick-up stations in Finland on behalf of the Finnish postal service and today has operations in nine countries − Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria, Norway, Germany, USA, UK, Hungary and Spain. The fastest growing new market is the USA where the state-of-the-art parcel stations enable Walmart shoppers to pick up their groceries in less than a minute, compared to the 15-minute over-the-counter pick-up time of the past.
Recently, Cleveron launched a new self-learning click & collect parcel terminal called CleverFlex on Inditex that is piloting the first CleverFlex at their Zara-brand store in A Coruña, Spain. Kütt stated that the cooperation with Inditex has been very thorough. ‘We have a common interest − to enhance customers’ omni-channel shopping experiences and develop a cost effective click & collect pickup solution. The first results show that we can set high expectations.’
Another exciting pilot is the LAEV smart house in Tallinn, equipped with the Cleveron cloud-based smart mailbox SnapLocker, which can send and receive mail according to parcel size as well as notify the inhabitants on arrival. The inhabitants don’t have one specific mailbox assigned to them but rather a range of boxes and drawers of different shapes and sizes that can be opened via app and used according to their particular needs at the time. In the future, many services could operate via a smart box − why not have the drycleaner pick up and deliver clothes straight from your apartment block? This could also be used to return online ordered items without leaving your own home.
The success of Cleveron is no surprise for Kütt: “It’s the result of ten years of targeted work that is now starting to bear fruit. We are prepared for growth and are just now starting to expand the production site threefold.”
“It’s great to have companies that make a bit of history every day.”
Location is the most crucial factor for many fast-growing technology companies. Cleveron has stayed put in a small town in central Estonia. For Kütt, moving the company away from his hometown is not an option: “Viljandi has just under 20 000 inhabitants and finding a qualified workforce is indeed a challenge. However, our strategy is to motivate people to move here instead of moving production. We want to stay here − it’s a nice town and our core team all comes from here. Viljandi has lots of smart and able people.”
In spite of disrupting the whole delivery sector with smart parcel robots the factory floor of Cleveron is still full of people busily assembling them. Isn’t that a contradiction? Kütt is not surprised by this observation: “Of course we are already working on solutions for how robots can start performing certain simpler assembly tasks. It’s a very realistic future that robots will build other robots. People will only do the more complex tasks and jobs that require creativity and inventiveness. The routine jobs will be handed over to machines more and more.”
Drone deliveries are waiting for EU regulations
Cleveron was showcasing its award-winning click & collect robotics based parcel delivery terminals, PackRobots, as well as latest drone technology at the Tallinn Digital Summit on 29th September 2017. Despite the fact that Cleveron’s drone technology is ready to deliver, the drone is tied to the ceiling at the moment. Kütt says: “We could be delivering with drones today, the technology is ready, it is just that we do not have the legislation. And legislation is up to politicians. If we want Europe to be the digital innovation leader, the politicians should speed up the legislation of new technologies in all sectors.”
Cleveron already conducted a test in Viljandi last summer; people could order soft drinks to be delivered by drone across the lake. It was very popular among the customers. The advantages are clear − no traffic jams and no salaries for the drones.
Arno Kütt: “The digital development will occur anyway. It’s hard to change the habits of consumers but there is no reason to be afraid. The digitalization will make the lives of people easier and help us save time.”