Ocado unveils lighter robots to help grocery giants like Kroger take on Amazon

Ocado’s new 600 Sequence warehouse robotic.


LONDON — U.Okay. retail tech firm Ocado on Wednesday unveiled a set of latest merchandise geared toward serving to massive grocery chains tackle Amazon and a wave of latest speedy grocery supply start-ups.

Whereas Ocado is most well-known for its on-line grocery store, a high focus for the corporate is robotics and automation instruments that it deploys in warehouses to select and pack gadgets and put together them for supply.

Ocado sells its expertise to high retailers together with Kroger, Britain’s Morrisons and France’s Casino.

The corporate introduced two new robots as a part of its tech showcase Wednesday. The primary is its 600 Sequence bot, which Ocado mentioned is lighter and extra energy-efficient than its predecessor, with over half of its components 3D printed.

The second is a set of superior robotic arms that decide gadgets straight off the grid within the firm’s warehouses. Ocado says it is developed synthetic intelligence expertise to reinforce the precision of the arms to one thing nearer to that of human pickers.

In the meantime, Ocado additionally touted what it calls a “digital distribution middle” — basically a mix of software program smarts and small micro-fulfillment facilities linked by one system. Ocado mentioned the providing would maximize capability of things in every warehouse whereas additionally slashing supply instances.

Shares of Ocado rose greater than 5% on Wednesday. The inventory has declined sharply prior to now 12 months, slumping 46%, with traders fretting over high-growth shares as economies emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and central banks start to speak of tightening financial coverage.

Fast supply race

The information comes as retailers face competitors not solely from Amazon, however a slew of upstarts providing grocery supply in a matter of minutes. Companies reminiscent of Getir and Gorillas have emerged throughout Europe and components of the U.S. just lately, backed by a flood of money from enterprise capitalists.

Such firms depend on so-called darkish shops, tiny warehouses which might be designed to ship on-line orders slightly than serve clients in-store.

Tim Steiner, Ocado’s CEO, mentioned he does not suppose these speedy grocery gamers pose a significant risk to massive retailers.

“There’s little or no differentiation between all of the gamers on the market,” Steiner mentioned on a name with reporters Wednesday. “They’re all remarkably comparable.”

Some start-ups have been acquired by bigger gamers of late, with Getir shopping for U.Okay. rival Weezy and Gorillas snapping up French agency Frichti. Ocado’s chief mentioned he is “not stunned” to see consolidation within the sector given how crowded it is turn out to be.

As for the way the corporate plans to fund constructing all its new expertise merchandise, Steiner mentioned value should not be a difficulty because the new robots will probably be extra capital-efficient than its present fashions. However he added the agency has sufficient money on its steadiness sheet — in addition to entry to financial institution financing — to finally deploy them at scale.

Ocado plans to roll out the merchandise to its retail companions by the tip of 2023. The initiatives are unlikely to have a fabric influence on Ocado’s full-year 2022 outcomes, the corporate mentioned.

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