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Ocado rolls out new robotics technology in Erith

Online grocer Ocado is rolling out further robotics technology in its supply chain following an agreement with automated tech provider Swisslog.

The vendor’s AutoStore system will be used in Ocado’s newly opened general merchandise distribution centre (GMDC) located in south-east London. It’s the second installation of Swisslog’s technology by the online supermarket following its usage in a separate facility north of the capital.

The new solution consists of 72,108 bins, 94 robots, 14 carousel ports and seven conveyor ports, and is expected to increase efficiency and maximise the use of space at the site in Erith. Swisslog’s system is typically used by its customers to handle single items and small cases.

Robots with transport and lifting functionality operate the system. Equipped with a lift, they retrieve the storage bins from the AutoStore grid and present them at the integrated picking stations, guided by a controls and location management system.

Richard Locke, head of general merchandise at Ocado, said: “With our first GMDC now operating at capacity, the opening of our second facility creates exciting new opportunities to grow and build on the success we have had in GM in recent years. 

“Using AutoStore with Swisslog again means that we have alignment between our first and second GMDCs, as we are using tried and trusted technology."

He added that the added capacity at GMDC2 will also support its first Fulfilled By Ocado partnership with garden centre group Dobbies, set for launch later in 2018.

Ocado recently revealed it was working on plans to expand from grocery into clothes and homewares. The company has also added a raft of international grocery partners this year, with the likes of Kroger and ICA Group agreeing to use the Ocado Smart Platform to develop their own eCommerce operations.