Tharsus, the leading designer and manufacturer of electro-mechanical systems, has been unveiled as the long-term partner in Ocado’s warehouse automation project.
The two companies have been working closely together since 2013. Tharsus became the official manufacturer of the game-changing Ocado Smart Platform.
Ocado is the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer with over 580,000 active customers in the UK.
The revolutionary robot system features a swarm of robots retrieving crates of groceries from beneath a grid structure.
The hive was recently deployed in Ocado’s Andover customer fulfilment centre (CFC). And is enabling the company to maximise the efficiency of food deliveries.
This is achieved by significantly reducing customer order picking times from hours to a few minutes.
Tharsus worked in collaboration with Ocado to rapidly prototype, develop and refine the robot for production.
“One of the greatest challenges has been the management of thousands of bots moving on one grid simultaneously. Each carrying over 30 kg of groceries while moving at several metres per second with just millimetres between each machine” explained Tharsus Chief Technical Officer Dave Swan.
“The robots need to accelerate and decelerate rapidly and stop with millimetre accuracy. They need to pick up and carry a heavy payload over long distances and be able to run for many hours on a single battery charge”.
Nothing of this scale existed before, so both companies had to innovate in software and hardware design to make this system fully operational.
“We knew that our vision for the Ocado Smart Platform was challenging from the outset” stated Ocado’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Richardson.
“We wanted to transform the way Ocado operates and also be able to offer the system to other global retailers to transform the way they serve their customers.
The robot is one of the fundamental elements of our system. Tharsus has been a great partner to help us achieve our ambition.
They’ve worked as a core member of our team, providing technical insight into the design.
Their support has been invaluable to us in getting our first fulfilment centre operational last year.”
Ocado plan to introduce the robots at other sites, including their fourth grocery CFC in Erith.
To meet their implementation ambition, Tharsus now have the capacity to produce thousands of units per year.
“Our collaboration with Ocado and strong relationship with our suppliers has produced a great result of which we’re very proud” added Swan.
“The partnership has produced a world-class goods-handling robot in a very short space of time.
We’re looking forward to supporting Ocado fulfil its ambitions in the UK and abroad.”