High-tech grocery retailer Ocado has launched a suite of new innovations that it says will enhance its automated Ocado Smart Platform and help shape the future of the sector
The company’s proprietary robotic picking and packing grid system will be upgraded with new lighter, more efficient fulfilment robots, along with a lighter grid system that will be easier and quicker to install. Known as the Series 600, the new bot will feature around 300 3D printed parts, resulting in a significantly reduced overall weight, cheaper build and running costs, and better serviceability.
According to Ocado, grids for the new 600 bot will not only be lighter and require less materials, they will be simpler and faster to install, taking weeks rather than the months previously required. Overall, the streamlined new system will allow the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) to be located in simpler, existing buildings rather than in custom-made facilities.
During an hour-long online presentation, Ocado co-founder and CEO Tim Steiner also revealed a new on-grid robotic arm to assist with picking and stock management. Using machine vision, deep reinforcement learning and advanced sensing, the arm helps the overall OSP pick and pack grocery items in a highly efficient and cost-effective way, according to the company. Ocado says the On-grid Robotic Pick will also lead to reduced labour costs, higher throughput in the fulfilment centre and additional optimisation of warehouse design.
Alongside the new hardware upgrades, the presentation also saw the launch of Ocado Orbit, a new virtual distribution centre that the company says will enable smaller fulfilment centres closer to the customer which are able to offer a large range in combination with short lead times. Using AI and machine learning, Ocado Orbit will see each warehouse in a particular area act as a primary supply hub for a fraction of the area’s required stock. However, all warehouses will have access to the combined total range, with stock distributed from each primary supply hub across the network on demand.