Engineering that delivers the future of retail
From giant warehouses to the bots that operate them, for over a decade our engineering has been the linchpin of Ocado’s disruption of the retail industry.
We value diverse skill sets and viewpoints, and work collaboratively to design, construct and maintain incredible innovations. Each talented individual makes our team – and our engineering – stronger.
What is Ocado and what is the role of Ocado Engineering?
Ocado is the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer. The objective is to provide customers with the best shopping experience for service, range and price.
Ocado Engineering builds and maintains Ocado’s Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs): our highly automated warehouses, incorporating the latest automation, robotics and control systems.
The efficient operation of Ocado CFCs is crucial to the success of Ocado and the delivery of hundreds of thousands of orders a week. The engineering that makes the smooth running of our operations possible is highly complex, requiring a range of specialisms. These include: mechanical; electronic; design for manufacture; safety; civil; controls; and automotive engineering.
Planning for the future and continuous innovation
In order to stay ahead of the industry, push new boundaries, and deliver the best products, we are continuously innovating what we do and how we work.
This means: learning from every project and evolving our methodologies each time; hiring and supporting skilled individuals who can push the reliability and efficiency of our products; and seeking out the best partners as we develop our engineering abroad.
The Buildings Technology team is responsible for the development of Ocado property. This includes the design, development, construction, upgrading, maintenance and project management of Ocado’s buildings and their building systems. These systems include: electrical and data distribution; sprinkler and fire suppression installations; refrigeration and HVAC systems and control; insulated structures; compressed air; and civil and structural engineering.
The Buildings Technology team are also responsible for contractor procurement and management, and meeting the insurers’ requirements. Alongside this, we provide technical support, advice and guidance on compliance, facilities management, the engagement of professional services, and assist the Property team when selecting new sites.
Construction and Site Development
Our primary responsibility is to develop new Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) for Ocado. Our role demands various management solutions in order to control the budget, programme, design, procurement and construction.
We work closely with other Ocado departments to develop the project scope to ensure the facility fully meets the requirements of the business, and is suitable to receive Ocado’s chosen MHE solution. In addition, we provide Ocado with technical expertise in respect of services, building and product selection.
To complement and support the wide range of skills we employ, a number of external consultants assist with specialist areas; these can range from production of feasibility proposals to end game installation solutions.
Spoke Facilities Management
A spoke site is a smaller local storage and distribution site where customer orders are sent before delivery to Ocado’s customers. Our team manages the development, upgrade, maintenance, engineering compliance and disposal of Ocado’s spoke sites. We also manage the development of any new office, research and General Merchandise sites.
When completing a project the team are responsible for the technical design, tender, contractor management, cost management and overall development of the buildings and their services. In addition, the team assists others by providing technical advice and support on compliance and facilities management of hard services.
As a team we are responsible for maintaining and increasing the efficiency of the mechanical and electrical facilities in our existing Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs). Although the Engineering Operations team are the first responders to any site facility breakdown, we have dedicated team members at each of our CFCs to offer in-depth knowledge when required.
The team also works closely with the Construction and Site Development team to help design and implement key services at new CFCs. These projects can include HV and LV electrical services, data services, site electrical generation, sprinkler systems, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, chill and freezer plants and fire alarm systems.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
At our automated Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) we process thousands of orders every day, all of which are time-critical so we can meet Ocado’s commitment to one-hour delivery slots. A key team in making sure we achieve Ocado’s commitments are the Engineering Operations team. They continually monitor and maintain our automated mechanical handling equipment (AMHE), for example: pallet and tote cranes; miles of conveyors; plant equipment; thousands of shuttles and robots.
Through continuous training, they have all the skills they need in-house. They constantly motivate the teams to do well and, through listening forums, ensure they harness ideas and keep their employees engaged.
The role of the Central Management team is to ensure we are always achieving the highest standards with regards to our equipment, the way we work and our training. As a team we frequently travel between sites to assess our current ways of working, whilst also identifying best practices to replicate and deploy across all other sites. Our team ensures we work together with a universal set of standards and from this, we are able to continually improve.
CFC1 and CFC2 Site Activity
Our skilled and dedicated teams of engineers are responsible for the day to day maintenance and repair activities at our mature CFCs in Hatfield and Dordon. The CFC1 and CFC2 engineering teams are integrated in the wider Operations division at Ocado, enabling them to work closely with Inbound, Outbound and other support teams to optimise availability and performance of the facility and its MHE automation. The teams adopt a continuous improvement (“CI”) culture with a pro-active focus which enables them to develop a good technical ability and understanding related to the automation hardware and software powering the CFCs. This culture has led to breakthroughs in diagnostic tooling and methods to promote proactive, rather than reactive maintenance.
From technical assistants to senior engineering operations managers, working in Hatfield and Dordon offers everyone the chance to get hands-on with the latest conveyor-based production, picking and storage MHE systems or perform active monitoring using state-of-the-art computerised management systems. The engineering team at CFC2 are proud that the CFC is a recognised learning centre with its own assessors who can train and assess NVQs. Both these CFCs have a strong culture to train and promote from within whenever possible.
CFC3 and CFC4 Site Activity
We currently have three Site Activity teams split between our two OSP CFCs, Andover and Erith, and our General Merchandise site in Welwyn Garden City. Our teams are responsible for achieving 100% of maintenance KPIs whilst ensuring rapid response and repair to unplanned breakdowns. We are focused on continuous improvement and development, ensuring strength in the team is maintained whilst enabling internal promotions. Together, as Engineering Operations, we ensure all Ocado sites share good practice and we train our people well, whilst always keeping safety as one of our key concerns.
Hatfield (Head Office)
Building 1, Trident Place, Hatfield Business Park, Mosquito Way
AL10 9UL, United Kingdom
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Garden City
AL7 1HH, UK
Gypsy Moth Avenue
Hatfield Business Park
AL10 9BD, UK
Birch Coppice Business Park
Danny Morson Way
B78 1SE, UK
Ocado Plot 89
Walworth Business Park
SP10 5AF, UK
DA8 1DL, UK