Robotic shop – with 400 jobs for humans
New home delivery store will be fully automated
SUPERMARKET giant Asda claims to be unveiling the ‘future of shopping’ in Hounslow.
The company is opening a hi-tech new home delivery centre in Cranford next April, with 400 jobs available, and says it will revolutionise the rapidly expanding sector.
A mammoth two million items a week will be delivered to people’s homes via the 110,000sqft unit, off Cranford Lane.
It will be Asda’s fourth home delivery centre in the UK but the first to be fully automated – with 180 robots whizzing about and shifting containers, and more than 2km of tracks delivering items to and from workstations.
Greg Rodmell, Asda’s operations development manager, said: “This is the home shopping centre of the future.
“Rather than walking round a supermarket picking things from shelves, the packers will stand still and the totes (containers) will come to them.
“This is a pilot not just for Asda but the whole of Walmart, so if it’s successful the same model could be introduced in Mexico, China, Canada and many more countries.”
Despite the breathtaking scale of the technology in place, some human hands are still required – for now at least – to unload deliveries, pack the containers and drive them to people’s homes.
Asda is looking to recruit about 400 people to work there, with job information already available on its website and applications invited from the middle of next month.
Each picker is told exactly where in a container items should be placed to make best use of the capacity, and packed containers heading to the vans in the precise order they are to be delivered.
Greg said this means smaller goods can be packed at the astonishing rate of more than 550 per hour – nearly five times the 120 expected of packers working at supermarkets.
A fleet of 125 vans will ferry the goods to hundreds of thousands of homes across the M4 corridor, with each vehicle heading out four times a day.
If this is the future, does that mean physical supermarkets will soon be a thing of the past?
Greg, who spent 16 years in the Army before joining Asda as a Christmas temp in 1994 and working his way up, insisted not.
He added: “When we launched home deliveries, there was a concern we would cannibalise sales from the shops but it’s actually increased custom in our stores.
“It’s a case of what you can dream these days, because they can do anything with computers.
“There’s no reason we can’t design a robot which will put something onto a trolley, and then all we would need is people to move produce from the delivery trucks into storage.
“Amazon’s trialling drone deliveries but I can’t see that happening near Heathrow. There’s enough trouble getting an extra runway.”
n IT ASDA THE FUTURE: Staff outside the new home delivery centre in Cranford with Hounslow mayor Nisar Malik (third from left) and Nigel Yates from Hounslow Jobcentre (far right) – Asda has announced that robots will sort people’s shopping