Here’s a glimpse inside a warehouse for online supermarket Ocado where hundreds of robots can be seen whizzing around picking groceries for customers.
They move on rails at four metres per second, passing just 5mm from their ‘colleagues’ as they go about their work.
The dishwasher-sized robots communicate over a wireless 4G system that was developed specifically for the warehouse.
It’s the first time Ocado has opened the doors of one of its highly-automated warehouses in the UK to show the technology that underpins its work.
The video shows the three-storey high aluminium grid containing stacks filled with white storage crates of grocery items at its warehouse in Andover, Hampshire.
Swarming around on top of the grid is the robotic fleet. In response to a customer order, a robot will lift a crate from a stack. It pulls the whole crate inside its body and delivers it to a pick station.
That’s where personal shoppers assemble the customer orders and pack them into bags.
It takes the robots five minutes to pick an average 50-item order.
“The robots have been designed in-house by Ocado Engineering and Ocado Technology and embody the most efficient warehouse logistics solution ever designed, with the potential to revolutionise the way we think about online retail,” said an Ocado spokesman.
Packing and picking groceries has specific difficulties, because of the various shapes and sizes of goods – they include anything from a spice jar to a giant box of cereal. Basically anything you would include in your weekly shop.
Ambient and chilled products are kept on separate grids while frozen items are stored separately and picked using a different method.
Each robot travels between 50km and 60km (31-37 miles) per day with charging points located around the edge of the grid.
Together the fleet at Andover travels a daily distance that equates to 4.5 times around the planet.
It’s no surprise then, that the warehouse is big. It spans an area equivalent to three football pitches – and the sporting analogies don’t stop there.
Underpinning the system is more steel than in the arch over Wembley Stadium – some 1,089 tonnes in total.
The amount of track in the building would stretch from London to Cambridge (70 miles/112km) if laid in a straight line.
As well as Ocado itself, the Ocado Smart Platform which powers the robots is used in the UK by Morrisons. The tech is also licensed to Groupe Casino in France, Sobeys in Canada, and ICA in Sweden.