Last year, it officially opened the doors of Ocado’s first international warehouses for Groupe Casino in France and Sobey’s in Canada. In 2021, the company plans to expand this to 10 warehouses around the world using its boxy robots.
US supermarket Kroger has announced plans for 10 Ocado robotic warehouses in America, with the possibility of building 10 more.
Sustaining revenue from the continued global interest in technology from Ocado, whose guinea pig has been its UK operations, hinges on a mixture of secrecy and showmanship.
Well kept secret
Even in 2016, Ocado’s robotic technology was a well-kept secret. Executives prohibit journalists visiting the company’s warehouses from taking photographs of the elaborate system of ramps that carry plastic bins full of groceries around the building.
Their fear, justified or not, was that supermarkets such as Tesco would look into the images that would emerge in hopes of replicating Ocado’s technology.
At the time, its Hatfield warehouse complex seemed rudimentary. Senior employees used their arms to hold back bins full of groceries, causing vegetables and ready meals to pile up as visitors climbed on moving belts.
Ocado’s robots are now attracting observers, and marketing videos show them moving at speeds of up to four meters per second around a grid the size of several football fields.
The robots collect plastic bins of items underneath, taking them to “pick” stations for humans or other robots to sort customer orders.