Ocado unveils ‘game-changing’ innovations to ramp up grocery initiatives
Image credit: Ocado Group
The online grocery delivery platform has unveiled a range of technological capabilities that will be integrated into the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP).
According to the Ocado Group, the technologies announced will collectively mean that its OSP partners will meet the full range of customer missions faster and with lower operating costs; enable short lead-time deliveries for a larger proportion of sales, and drive a faster speed to market.
The company described the initiative as an “evolution” of OSP and will be one of the most significant steps forward in technology in Ocado’s history. They said it will also re-affirm OSP as the fastest, most flexible, most sustainable and most cost-effective suite of solutions for operating online grocery businesses.
“These new capabilities will propel the entire online grocery market forward across different missions, and will enable our partners to take a greater share of the grocery market thanks to the structural and systemic advantage that the ‘re-imagined’ Ocado Smart Platform gives them,” said Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado.
One technology revealed was its 600 Series bot, which they described as the world’s lightest and most efficient grocery fulfilment bot, built using the company’s expertise in additive manufacturing, with more than half of its parts 3D-printed.
According to Ocado, this new bot is cheaper to build and operate than its predecessor, ultra energy-efficient and high performing. It also has continual software updates and on-demand parts, which means higher utilisation of each bot.
This lighter bot unlocks a cascade of benefits for optimised customer fulfilment centre (CFC) design, they added. This will enable the re-imagined OSP to be installed into simpler, more cost-effective buildings, as well as in micro-fulfilment centres near the customer.
Ocado also revealed an 'On-Grid Robotic' picker that automates the picking and packing of customer orders directly from its warehouse grid.
The robotic arm uses technologies such as machine vision, deep reinforcement learning and advanced sensing to help pick and pack grocery items in an efficient and cost-effective way, with no prior knowledge of what those products are. Such capabilities will also enable the arms to pick tens of thousands of products of varying shapes, sizes, weights and fragility and pack them densely in bags with human precision and accuracy.
Ocado also announced the launch of the world’s first virtual distribution centre, known as Ocado Orbit. This process helps create a system whereby multiple smaller footprint warehouses share a “virtual distribution centre”, which will use the latest software in AI and machine learning in a “seamless supply ecosystem”.
Each warehouse acts as a primary supply hub for a fraction of the stock, but all have access to the combined range, offering their customers the choice of a large range. It also enables smaller fulfilment centres, closer to the customer, to offer a large range, short lead times and value simultaneously.
Other innovations announced include an automated frame load that automates the loading of totes with ready-for-delivery customer orders onto delivery frames ready for dispatch, replacing the manual process currently in place; its Ocado Swift Router that enables delivery of last-minute, short lead-time orders and larger, longer lead-time orders, all from the same van, and Ocado Flex, which allows its partners to use their own web-shops and app solutions whilst still taking advantage of the intelligence of OSP.
Steiner said he is “proud” of the company’s technology teams for the work they do across every aspect of OPS and that he is thrilled to unveil innovation and breakthroughs that will collectively deliver step changes to the performance, cost, effectiveness and flexibility of its platform.
“For the first time, consumers will not have to make a compromise between choice, lead times, and value,” he explained. “Meanwhile, our partners will be able to deliver an even better customer proposition in their market and at the best economics in online grocery.”
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.