Swisslog’s AutoStore to boost space efficiency for Ocado

Published on by Steve Williams (author)

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Integrated logistics solutions specialist Swisslog is delivering an automated warehouse solution for online retailer Ocado. Swisslog’s AutoStore system will provide Ocado’s new Non Food DC in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire with automated storage, handling and picking of non-food items.

Established in 2000, Ocado is one of Britain’s leading online retailers offering customers a simple and convenient alternative to more conventional supermarket shopping. The business has grown rapidly, supplying almost 30,000 product lines and serving over 70% of British households.

The success of the independent online retailer has led to increased business for non-food items and household goods, making the desire to maximise the efficiencies of storage and picking operations. Ocado needed a practical and efficient automated solution that would complement its existing systems and optimise usage of available space.

AutoStore is installed at a new site close to the existing 23-acre Hatfield site and will be integrated with Ocado’s existing fulfilment operation. Swisslog’s AutoStore solution will comprise of 31 robots, four ergonomic pick stations and two decant stations which will provide a highly efficient warehouse solution with better space optimisation, high throughput and allow all pickers access to every SKU at each pick station.

With its modular design, Swisslog’s AutoStore is easily extended as the business grows and any extension can be installed and commissioned while the system is in full operation.

Ocado’s James Matthews, Director of Non Food, says, “We are very excited about the opportunities presented by Swisslog’s AutoStore. An operation of this size presents many complex requirements. From the outset we were looking to work with a supplier that had the skills and resources to effectively design and manage the whole process to present a solution that would facilitate further expansion. Swisslog and AutoStore ticked all the boxes.”

First delivered in Scandinavia, AutoStore offers a range of benefits, including the efficient warehousing and order processing of single items and small cases in a very compact area. The system provides the highest possible rate of space optimisation teamed with extremely dense storage, as robots on the top of the grid automatically store and retrieve goods with minimum space requirements. Compared to traditional automated solutions, AutoStore allows far greater capacity and storage density, with up to 60% more goods stored in the same space as a conventional materials handling solution.

AutoStore’s flexibility also means that it is an ideal solution for integrating into, and around existing operations and into an existing building. Qualities that were integral to Ocado’s vision for the future growth of its business. The project represents a major investment for Ocado and a long term commitment by Swisslog who will provide on-going maintenance and support through its team of dedicated service engineers.

Andrew Manship, Managing Director and Senior Vice President of Swisslog’s Europe Central region, says, “As you would expect, we are delighted to be working with another of the UK’s leading online retailers, adding to our growing reputation as a supplier of choice to the industry’s key players. We share Ocado’s vision of a modern and efficient warehousing systems and believe AutoStore will help to transform the way major warehouses operate in the UK. We look forward to an on-going relationship with Ocado in delivering this first class innovative solution.”

The installation will be fully operational by early 2013.