Inside a warehouse located in the small town of Andover, England, more than 1,000 robots seamlessly navigate around a three-storey-high aluminium grid packing groceries for online shoppers. This high-tech customer fulfillment centre belongs to online grocer Ocado, who claims the system could revolutionise online retail.
The fleet of bots are able to put together an order of 50 groceries in just five minutes, processing 65,000 orders every week for the grocer's 645,000 online customers.
They zip around the three-dimensional 'hive' picking up products from crates and ferrying them to packing stations where people put the orders together. Despite coming within half a centimetre of each other while whizzing around the grid's 250,000 storage locations, the robots never bump into one another thanks to an air-traffic-control-style system that choreographs their movements, reports The Economist.
Ocado, founded in 2000 and now valued at $7.6bn, is today as much of a tech startup as it is an online grocery company. Its original business model has evolved to a point where it supports not only the company’s own online grocery fulfilment, but also a growing number of online grocers, who buy its platform as a service (PaaS) as part of a managed customer fulfilment service, writes Cliff Saran for Computer Weekly.
In addition to the handful of supermarkets in Europe and Canada that have bought Ocado's operating platform, it's been reported that the company is prepped for expansion in its homeland too, with plans to build the world’s largest automated customer fulfillment centre for online groceries at Erith, just outside London. Here 3,500 swarming robots will prepare 200,000 orders a week.
Watch the Andover warehouse robots in action below:
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