In a strategic move to enhance its online grocery packing capabilities, UK-based online supermarket Ocado is set to double the number of robotic arms at its Luton warehouse, the Financial Times (FT) reported.
The decision, announced by Ocado Retail CEO Hannah Gibson during a recent site tour, aims to accelerate the picking and packing process for the vast array of products offered by the online retailer.
Upgraded technology driving efficiency
Ocado’s robotic arms, introduced in 2022, represent a leap forward in warehouse automation. These machines can now directly pick individual products from storage boxes, eliminating the need for the previous process involving metallic grids.
The FT noted, the Luton facility, spanning 346,000ft² and operational since September 2023, will see the current 22 robotic arms doubled to 44.
Towards a robotic-driven future
The news agency said that Gibson revealed that approximately half of the products at the Luton warehouse, boasting a selection of 50,000 items, will soon be handled by robotic arms. The long-term vision is 80% coverage by these machines, working in harmony with more than 500 human packers currently employed.
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Ocado’s technological leap
Beyond its identity as an online supermarket, Ocado Group has diversified its portfolio to include logistics and robotics businesses. Notably, the company has been actively selling its robotic warehouse technology to traditional supermarkets globally, facilitating its competitiveness against industry giants such as Amazon.
With Marks & Spencer (M&S) owning half of Ocado Retail, the partnership extends to the online sale of M&S food through Ocado’s platform.
Ocado’s move towards robotic automation not only improves operational efficiency but also promises a broader product range, lower substitutions, and an overall more efficient operating model compared to traditional store-based approaches.