Adidas invests in automation at new eCommerce DC

Global sports brand Adidas has recruited European tech company, Knapp, to automate its new eCommerce distribution centre (DC) in Rieste, north-west Germany, as it looks to cater for growing online retail demand.

With the addition of a new shuttle solution, Adidas is looking to more efficiently handle the flow of eCommerce orders. In peak periods more than 350,000 products a day leave the group’s largest DC, and the expansion of its German facility and addition of new technology was deemed necessary to help maintain the business's customer service standards.

Knapp's OSR Shuttle technology is being deployed for order picking, while warehouse logistics software, KiSoft, is in place to process online orders.

Explaining how Adidas will use Knapp's automated technology in the DC, the tech company's CEO Gerald Hofer commented: “The flexible OSR Shuttle solution provides access at all times to all articles and gives the Adidas Group the independence needed for future business development.

“The entire solution is modularly constructed and can be easily expanded.”

Start-up of the new system at the Adidas DC is planned for 2018, but the move to automate certain warehouse processes at the company comes at a time when the wider retail industry is looking at ways to introduce robotics and artificial intelligence into the supply chain.

At a breakfast briefing attended by Essential Retail, last week, Ocado chief technology officer, Paul Clarke, said the new warehouses his company is building in Erith and Andover will be heavily automated, using technology built in house.

He said the robotics and automated services effectively offer “4D optimisation”, with systems choosing which boxes to pick and how to replace them. He described the 4D element as “time” because the system is required to look ahead at the order profile which is changing continually as online orders are taken.

“It's changing on your feet and the software and machine-based learning traffic control system is having to learn and adapt as it goes,” he explained.

“Then you've got all the data from the robots which stream back on the cloud. Whereas in traditional warehouse you'd have engineers looking at Scala screens monitoring motors, for example, you can completely forget that in this scenario.”

Clarke added that Ocado has started to build smart, machine-learning-based analytics in the cloud that will look at the data and identify things such as front-end changes or whether a battery is suffering before acting accordingly to resolve the issue. He also suggested people and automated systems will work closely together for some time yet.

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