For many consumers in the UK, ordering groceries online is now part of everyday life thanks to the delivery-based model pioneered by Ocado more than 15 years ago. Combining data, logistics and automation in a way the grocery industry had not seen before, Ocado quickly became the world’s largest online-only supermarket.
At the core of the Ocado operational model sits centralised fulfilment, a concept where grocery orders are picked, packed and shipped to customers in one hour slots from a highly-automated facility called a Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC).
Designing, delivering and sustaining the cutting-edge engineering and construction solutions to power these CFCs is Ocado Engineering, a division of the Ocado Group. In addition to underpinning the operations of Ocado.com, Ocado Engineering work on the automation fulfilment products that form an integral part of the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), an end-to-end platform designed to power all aspects of a grocery e-commerce business. Recent adopters of OSP include Groupe Casino, a leading French retailer, and Sobeys, the second largest food retailer in Canada.
A typical OSP CFC includes two modular grids where thousands of robots work collaboratively across two temperature regimes (ambient and chilled) to assemble the items needed for a customer order in five minutes. In order to construct, fit-out and maintain these facilities, Ocado Engineering relies on three departments: Buildings Technology, Automation Engineering, and Engineering Operations.
Buildings Technology own everything to do with the buildings and their systems, including their design, development, construction, upgrading and maintenance.
Automation Engineering are responsible for the end-to-end cycle of electro-mechanical automation. This covers the complete journey from creating the original concepts for bespoke automation equipment; to making sure these designs work with the framework and are incorporated in such a way that they can run as efficiently as possible; to implementation planning and sourcing appropriate suppliers; and finally to incorporating these designs within CFCs at millimetre precision. The OSP robots and related systems, alongside all the other OSP so ware modules, are designed in-house by Ocado Technology and Ocado Engineering.
Finally, Engineering Operations continually monitor and maintain the automated mechanical handling equipment to ensure that the thousands of time-sensitive orders a CFC processes and delivers each day fulfil their one-hour slot commitment. These three departments also work together seamlessly to make sure that there is continual cross-departmental feedback, allowing them to constantly improve upon their solutions.
This article was written and supplied by Ocado Engineering. More information about Ocado Engineering can be found at :
DID YOU KNOW?
- Ocado Engineering includes more than 300 people, including technicians, engineers and project managers
- The OSP CFC robots reach speeds of 4m/s and rely on the world’s densest 4G network to communicate
- The CFC in Andover, Hampshire used more steel than the arch over Wembley Stadium and enough aluminium to make 70 million soda cans
- The CFC in Erith, south-east London has an area of 563,000 sq ft , making it the world’s largest automated warehouse for online grocery
- Each day a fleet of 1,000 OSP CFC robots travels a distance that equates to 4.5 times around the planet