Why Ocado’s innovation is a game-changer for the UK grocery industry
I recently had the opportunity to cover Siemens Digital Talks 2019 and, whilst there, had the opportunity to hear about the latest innovations being developed and evolved by leading online grocery provider, Ocado.
Ocado are the world’s largest online grocery business with by far the biggest product range. They currently stock 50,000 products online – 50% more than the UK’s largest brick and mortar supermarket, Tesco.
Ocado’s logistical operations are centred around their Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) where their technologically advanced automated warehouses allow for faster and more precise handling of perishable produce.
“This means that fruit and vegetables ordered by Ocado customers get to them quicker and stay fresher for longer,” explains Andrew Selim, Projects Manager for Ocado Engineering.
Mark Richardson, Ocado’s Operations Director worked with Cambridge Consultants to develop Ocado’s game-changing robot communications technology, known as RCom.
Richardson describes the system as “Operating with the precision and efficiency of a major airport. RCom relies on real-time, split-second reactions on the part of the robots, which are collaborative and massively resilient”
“Also, having just one robotic system to evolve, develop and support is a highly cost effective intralogistical solution,” he adds.
Developed around the capabilities of 4G technology, within a licence-free wireless spectrum, 1,000 devices can be controlled from a single base station.
“Because it works in a licence-free spectrum, the technology can be employed anywhere in the world in a cost-effective manner” explains Richardson.
“In the future we want our technology to become more intuitive about our individual customers’ needs and to even order for them, in essence, automating the entire process.”
But it’s not all about speed!
“We want to give our customers back the time they would spend in travelling and shopping in traditional supermarkets” says Lotito Viviana, Product Rollout Co-ordinator for Ocado Engineering.
“A typical Ocado order is for between 50-60 products, which means that our online process needs to be very consumer friendly and easy to use,” she adds.
And it’s evolving further!
“In the future we want our technology to become more intuitive about our individual customers’ needs and to even order for them” says Viviana, “in essence, automating the entire process.”
“We are building this service by using a data-centric approach to create a detailed picture of our customers shopping habits, using their historical purchasing data to predict the replenishment of their regular groceries and to automate deliveries.
“Many customers today are happy to take their hands “off the wheel” and let us drive their grocery needs” she explains “It’s absolutely the way forward for the industry.”
And now Ocado has introduced Zoom, a new way of shopping that promises to deliver groceries within an hour of ordering. It’s currently running in West London, but Ocado plan to roll out across the UK over the next eighteen months.
“At the moment, Zoom offers 10,000 products for people whose lifestyle choice matters, albeit vegetarian, vegan or gluten free” says Selim.
“75% of our orders are delivered within 30 mins with the fastest delivery time to date being just 9 minutes – and I’m sure we’ll break that soon,” adds Viviana.
“We’ve heard of people ordering their Zoom delivery as they step off the train or after work at the pub, ready for when they arrive home.
“So, we’re not just changing the way people shop but the way they socialise,” says Selim.
Ocado certainly mean business when it comes to finding new ways to add value to their customers and they don’t rest on their laurels in terms of celebrating their success to date.
“Just because we’re leading the way today doesn’t mean we can slow down” explains Selim.
“We are constantly looking to evolve and improve the grocery shopping experience for our customers and we will achieve this through the clever use of new technology and innovation.”