Automation Engineering works with several departments in Ocado Technology to cover the end-to-end cycle of electromechanical automation within Ocado.

The department delivers the automation solutions required by the wider business. The cycle begins with the Product Development team, who create concepts for bespoke automation equipment to meet our own specific needs. Their solutions are developed in 2D and 3D by our Technical Design and Integration team to maximise facility efficiency and utilisation, and to ensure it all fits in. These concepts can then be incorporated into our Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC) solutions.

Next, the Central and Automation Planning team create the realisation plan for implementation. The Manufacturing and Supply Chain teams are engaged to source suppliers for the millions of pieces of extruded aluminium, folded steel, motors, drives, belts rollers and pulleys that make up our CFC sites. The Implementation team then constructs the machines, built on the scale of several football pitches, to millimetre precision. Finally, once the site is completed, the Enhancements team take over responsibility for upgrades, refits and lifetime support.

Owning the entire lifecycle, from design to implementation to operation, is in itself a great opportunity. It allows the Automation Engineering department to quickly identify a need, design innovative concepts to solve it, then turn those concepts into real, bespoke products – all on short development cycles. This can only be achieved by working with excellent people, with high technical capabilities across diverse skill sets, who have a drive to succeed.

Product Development

Our goal as a Product Development Team is to deliver new products, systems and technology to support the capacity growth of Ocado. We populate the Ocado product catalogue with a range of automation products and systems that will allow us to build the Customer Fulfilment Centres of the future.

Maintaining the rapid growth of Ocado requires efficient and cost-effective New Product Introduction (NPI) processes. We achieve this through our people, expertise and drive to create the most commercially compelling logistics technology solution in the world.

The ability to meet the reliability, cost and lifecycle targets set by the business is critical for us. We are achieving this through the growth of expertise in the team in the key areas of product development: NPI, design, systems engineering, reliability engineering, safety and compliance, and design for manufacture.

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Technical Design and Integration

Our team creates detailed Technical CAD designs and drawings using 2D CAD and 3D Solid Modelling software. By working closely with multiple departments across the business from Product Development and IT through to external Architects and Structural Engineers we are able to consider every element during the design process.

We are able identify any potential issues or clashes during the design phase to ensure that the proposed designs will be operationally viable from the site build to equipment install. Our projects can range from small existing site development through to new multi-million pound Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs).

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Engineering Supply Chain

As a team we identify and validate suitable supply partners for delivery of engineering products to Ocado. This includes auditing the capacity and quality of suppliers, and using feedback to optimise through continuous improvement.

We synchronise supply and demand in order to increase flexibility, reduce demand variability, create supplier strategy and manage order schedules to ensure supply chain meets business needs. Additionally, by co-ordinating risk mitigation, we enable rapid response to fast-changing demands.

By working cross-functionally, we ensure the customer requirement is properly defined and permits minimal total delivered cost.

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Central Automation Engineering and Planning

Our team builds and coordinates the programmes needed to support and coordinate our delivery of automation solutions inside our new CFCs. We coordinate both COTS solutions from external vendors, and our own proprietary automation solutions developed in-house by our Product Development colleagues.

We also maintain the technical side of our in-house catalogue of automation products and configure and support Ocado's own range of automation products, providing engineering support and expertise to our colleagues in Supply Chain and Site Implementation.

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Automation Engineering Site Implementations

In our team we manage packages from tender, supplier selection, contract, installation, site implementation to commissioning, and then handover to the business. The typical number of packages for a site project range between 15 and 20, with each being valued anywhere from £100k to £8M.

Throughout packages we monitor and track the programme to ensure budget control and progress is on track, reporting any risk to the business. At all times we manage site safety under CDM regulations by working with, or being, the principal contractor and liaising with other Duty holders required under these regulations.

We work closely with other departments within Ocado Engineering as our site MHE installation programmes feed into the site programme via Central Automation Engineering and Planning. With the wider business we also develop plans, improvements, integration and cost saving opportunities for current and future installations.

The team consists of differing skill levels ranging from Graduate to Senior Engineering Project Manager. In addition to quantifiable project delivery tasks, we also look at team development, project process improvements and communication between other departments.

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Enhancements and Minor Projects

We are a team of engineering project managers focused on the existing Ocado CFCs that are already delivering customer orders, and where the majority of the initial installation has been completed. The aim of our work is to manage either the complete enhancement or installation of mechanical handling equipment that will improve the CFCs output, or make it more efficient and reduce costs.

We are required to manage the complete project including: all technical aspects, cost, safety, installation, program coordination and all external contractors that we use.

We frequently carry out projects in a live production environment, where we have to find ways to target our improvements in small shutdown windows with tight deadlines and close to zero margins for extending the works. Quite a challenge!

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