UK online-only supermarket Ocado had to cancel delivery orders from some customers after a robot collision at one of its warehouses on Friday sparked a fire, the company said.
The fire at the company’s Erith warehouse in east London “appears to have been caused by the collision of three robots on the network,” the company said in a statement on Sunday. No one was hurt and the damage was limited to less than 1% of their grid, according to Ocado.
The grocer’s warehouses are populated by washing machine-sized robots that move produce on a rack system. The edgeJames Vincent wrote about Ocado’s plans in a 2018 report. He described the process:
Deliveries are unpacked in crates; the boxes are placed on conveyors; and conveyors transport cases to shelves, where human “preparers” take what they need to fill customer orders. The new paradigm, however, is about using space as efficiently as possible. Items are still placed in crates, but those crates are now stored in huge piles, up to 17 boxes high. Their position in this pile seems to be random – a box of razors next to cod fillets, for example – but it’s decided by algorithm; with frequently viewed items placed at the top and rarer purchases near the bottom. In addition to this treasure, the robots do their job.
The robots in Ocado’s warehouses operate on grids. Three of the robots collided at her warehouse in Erith on July 16, causing a fire that disrupted operations.
The company said Sunday that Erith’s factory, which processes some 150,000 orders per week according to the Financial Time, is expected to restart operations in the coming days. “While we expect some disruption to operations, we are working to restore normal service as soon as possible,” the company said. “We expect the installation to start operating in the coming week and thank customers with affected orders for their patience. “