Ocado has unveiled a new suite of technological innovations that boss Tim Steiner says “have literally shattered through existing rules” around grocery home delivery

In a livestream broadcast on Wednesday, Steiner unveiled seven new technological innovations to its Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), which he believes will be “game-changing” for the retailer and the future of grocery delivery. 

Ocado picker robot

Tim Steiner said Ocado’s new tech will ‘shatter the trade-offs… between choice, lead times and value’

The first was the new 600 Series bot, which Steiner said was the “lightest and most efficient” grocery fulfilment robot in the world. 

With the lighter robots come the 600 grid and optimised design, which enable Ocado to build lighter grids. This will significantly reduce the time and costs associated with developing a new customer fulfilment centre (CFC).

Currently, the design and fit-out of an Ocado CFC can take up to two years. Steiner said the new grids could see a prospective new site “go from zero to fully operational in six months”. 

Ocado also announced new AI technology “automate frameloads”, effectively automating the physical packing of picked orders from the grids and preparing them for delivery. This is currently conducted manually by Ocado and is “one of the most physically demanding jobs” in a CFC and will also significantly reduce costs for its partners. 

The pureplay grocer also unveiled new robotic picking arms, developed by Haddington Dynamics. Sitting on top of the robots, the arms can pick directly from the grid, reducing labour costs and increasing the efficiency of CFCs. 

All of these physical technologies feed into Ocado’s more holistic announcements: Swift Router, Ocado Orbit and Ocado Flex. 

Swift Router will allow Ocado to branch into same-day, and possibly even faster, on-demand, grocery fulfilment using the same vans that will also make next-day deliveries.

The retailer billed Ocado Orbit as the “world’s first virtual distribution centre”. 

Ocado Technology chief product officer Hannah Gibson described Ocado Orbit as: “Bringing together the efficiencies, large ranges and higher-order accuracy of large warehouses but for a network of smaller sites. This allows all sites to offer the entire combined range of the network, allowing consumers to have access to 10s of 1000s of products, but with shorter lead times.”

The final innovation was Ocado Flex, new software that lets Ocado partners integrate their existing websites and apps into OSP technology. 

Ocado said partners will see these new technologies being introduced into ordered CFCs in the second half of 2023 with all orders made before the end of that year being able to be retrofitted to include the enhancements. 

Steiner added: “These capabilities will transform the customer proposition in online grocery by shattering the trade-offs that define today’s normal. 

“For the first time, consumers will not have to make a compromise between choice, lead times and value. OSP partners will be able to deliver an even better customer proposition in their markets, and at the best economics in online grocery.”

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