Robot collision at Ocado warehouse near London ignites fire, delaying customer orders


The only online British supermarket, Ocado, has had to cancel delivery orders from some customers after a collision on Friday with robots in one of its warehouses caused a fire, the company said.

The fire at the Erith warehouse in the company, east of London, “appears to be the result of a collision of three robots in a grid,” the company said in a statement on Sunday. No one was injured, and the damage was limited to less than one percent of its network, according to Ocado.

Grocery stores have washing machine-sized robots that move products in a grid system. LimitJames Vincent wrote Ocado plans as 2018 shaking. He described the process:

Deliveries are unloaded in boxes; boxes are placed on conveyors; and conveyors carry boxes to shelves where people’s “pickers” take what they need to fulfill customer orders. However, the new paradigm is about using space as efficiently as possible. The products are still placed in boxes, but these boxes are now stored in huge stacks, up to 17 boxes high. Their position in this stack seems to be random – razor razors next to cod fillets, for example – but it is algorithmically decided; with frequently used items placed at the top and rarer shopping near the bottom. On top of this pile, robots do their job.

The robots in Ocado’s warehouses operate on grids. Three robots collided with Erith’s warehouse on July 16, causing a fire that has disrupted operations.

The company announced on Sunday that the Erith plant will handle about 150,000 orders a week by Financial Times, should restart 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 look forward to the plant starting operations in the coming week and thanking customers whose orders show patience.”

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