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Innovation - In Our Industry

Here at Central Conveyors Ltd we have worked with hundreds of customers over the years, helping them fulfil their material handling and conveyor needs. Through that work we have been exposed to technology, at various stages of maturity, that has both excited and amazed us. Now more than ever we are coming across cutting edge technologies that are helping our industry to move forward in leaps and bounds.

In a (to be) regular part of our blog we wanted to highlight companies and technologies that we hope you will find eye opening and inspiring.

In week one we highlight Ocado.

Ocado, was once an online only retailer, but much has changed since those beginnings when they delivered goods for the supermarket Waitrose.

They now describe themselves as:

'An alchemical blend of a world-leading technology business and a disruptive innovator'

They are not wrong, their holistic approach to innovation has made them a leading, inspiring giant in the world of retail fulfilment.

In Andover in the UK, you will find a warehouse, which houses a grid the size of a football pitch where robots, traverse each other, sometimes passing so close that you believe they are going to hit each other. The aim being to fulfil as many orders, in the quickest time possible, all while achieving a cost per transaction that is the envy of the industry.

The Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) team is involved in many areas of research and development, around the mission of moving, storing, sorting, picking and packing groceries. To this end they have developed some of the worlds most advanced robotic capability, specific to the grocery industry.

Ocado are focused on trying to work out and develop robots that are capable of working in the same environment and location where humans can be found. This provides an extra layer of complexity and unpredictability which means that hardware and software design have to meet at the highest levels.

Two prime examples of the robotics research are the EU-funded Horizon 2020 SOMA and SecondHands projects. Together with partners, Ocado have been able to achieve the development of a robot that has soft hands that can easily adapt to the shape of various objects in the grocery world. Ocado states that we 'expect to see robotic hands embodying SOMA principles in production in the not too distant future'.

Ocado are also producing cutting edge software, across multi channels that allow customers to seamlessly go from desktop to mobile. This sounds commonplace, but ensuring the user experience is not damaged, or that the user can't find items, or that they are not able to navigate with the minimum of effort, is no mean feat. Testing is key here, whilst remembering the diversity of users, including those with disabilities and accessibility needs is also something which Ocado pride themselves on.

As Ocado continue to develop and move the industry on in leaps and bounds, they will continue to inspire both their suppliers, and the wider supply chain. It seems that in terms of innovation, in the grocery industry, where Ocado goes, others will follow. CCL will be keeping an eye on this fascinating area of work.

Central Conveyors Ltd offer a wide range of solutions to your conveyor needs. Our friendly and experienced team are here to help with any enquiry you may have.

Tel: 01509 816064

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