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28 September 2018

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Manufactured in Andover group visit Ocado Andover


The Manufactured in Andover network has been running for a couple of years and meetings have been hosted by MRT Castings, PLP Ltd., Perfect Bore Limited, Vitacress and this week by Ocado.

Ocado kindly opened the doors of their automated warehouse in Andover to the group this week, to look at how their market leading futuristic robots have revolutionised the grocery world.

The 1000+ strong robots in the Andover warehouse zoom at 4 metres per second across a structure known as "The Hive", a criss-crossing network of rails, with 17 layers of packing baskets below. Each robot has the ability to recognise not only where it is, but where others are, to avoid any clashing on this vast system - quite a spectacle to see.

To take in the magnitude of the technological advancements demonstrated by Ocado's development for the lay person is almost impossible. 1000+ robots packing 3.5 million items a week, each uniquely wirelessly communicating, sending signals back to base at a rate of 100 per second to show where it is and what it's doing is staggering.

The robots' movements are just the beginning however, then you delve in to the stock control. It is so tightly regimented due to the technology involved, that they generate just a slither of the waste of their competitors. Most supermarkets' waste level is 12-13%, Ocado manage just 0.5%. Items are delivered and enter 'The Hive' directly from their suppliers, and are turned around and shipped to customers with a greatly reduced turnaround time. Not only that, they are able to prioritise by sell by date, so the stock goes to customer in the right order, ensuring that when your food is delivered to your kitchen (yes, not the front door like other competitors!), it is likely to have a longer use by time than their rivals. 

Ocado truly are running the warehouse of the future, but it's comforting to see they also still need humans! Employing circa 750 staff at the Andover site, Ocado are a large employer in the area. Humans are there to do some of the thinking that the robots can't, and the robots are reassuringly used as the tools they should be, bringing increased efficiency benefits to the business, the staff and their consumers. 

The group were able to speak to staff of all levels in the Ocado warehouse to learn best practice from the ground up, and see for themselves what a truly advanced and automated warehouse can offer businesses in 2018.

The next Manufactured in Andover meeting is at Stannah Stairlifts in January 2019.

If you would like to know more please contact dgleave@testvalley.gov.uk

Manufactured in Andover is a best-practice network of engineering/manufacturing businesses, large and small, operating in the Andover area. Businesses take it in turn to host an informal meeting which involves a factory tour, discussion of operational issues such as lean manufacturing etc. together with a special topic such as exporting or skills followed by lunch.


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