What is Bot School?

For our Hatfield and Dordon automated warehouses, Ocado Engineering acted mainly as a procurer and integrator of third party turnkey solutions or a buyer of individual parts; however, since the introduction of the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) CFCs – Customer Fulfilment Centre AKA our huge warehouses – we have made the shift towards developing and designing our own automation solutions and MHE equipment, and then commissioning, installing and maintaining these solutions on premise ourselves. Designing in-house solutions throws up a number of potential maintenance challenges; luckily, our Engineering Operations team came up with an interesting solution to this problem.

In order to help everyone working on the OSP CFCs understand the complexity of the robotics hardware, the Engineering Operations team created the highly successful Bot School, with an aim to provide more than just a maintenance handbook – the two week course gives an in depth and specific understanding of both the hardware and software of the Ocado Smart Platform robots, while also identifying key areas for development for each and every individual.

Before creating the course, members of the Engineering Operations team spent a number of weeks with the engineers and developers from Ocado Engineering and Ocado Technology. This link up between departments has given Engineering Operations the chance to learn all the ins and outs of the OSP robots, which has been key to the success behind the Bot School.

The first week of the course covers all aspects of hardware including the specification of the robot, what the LED lights mean, the subsystems, the components used, and how to replace components; the first week ends with a hands-on section where participants are asked to completely strip out and rebuild an OSP robot.

The second week goes into detail around the software and networking systems, including the communications systems, the CAN network, the components on a PCB board, how to connect to a robot, check the connections, start up a robot from cold and much more. The step by step approach to this course means it can cater for a wide audience from Technicians, who are still studying at college, to experienced Engineering Professionals. The course ends with a graduation style ceremony where participants receive a Bot School certificate which many display proudly! The certificate also includes a personal development plan highlighting areas on which individuals may need to focus.

Among the key people who have helped create Bot School is Simon Olsen, Maintenance Manager at CFC3 (Andover). Simon explained that Bot School initially started as a small training document, however they soon realised people had “never seen anything as sophisticated as the robots!” and the team saw the need to expand the training. According to Simon, “the aim was to be able to give Bot School to a future CFC manager, such as at CFC4 (Erith), so they would be able to roll it out to their team”. This programme has offered massive benefits as Engineering Operations are now able to get a new starter up to speed in just two weeks and the repeatability of Bot School has proven itself. Vitor Peixoto, who is a Lead Controls Engineer, has also been instrumental in deploying the programme. He explained that all new Engineering Operations starters at CFC4 (Erith) have already been through the training and have absolutely loved it. There are even plans to roll the training out to more experienced employees!

This training has been hugely beneficial to Ocado Engineering and going forward will be used and adapted for future models of OSP robots, as the Engineering Operations team sees enormous scope to expand the course for additions to the Ocado Smart Platform.

Lucy Carr-Archer, Marketing Communications Executive

george smith