An Army of More Than 2,000 Robots Swarms in a Grocery Warehouse in the U.K.

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It was just a matter of time…We’ve been talking for so long about robots taking over the world that it had to happen eventually. A relevant example of that is the huge Ocado grocery warehouse in the U.K., where more than 2,000 machines are running things, acting like working bees in a hive.

In fact, that’s exactly how Ocado nicknames its enormous facility, where an army of approximately 2,300 bots moves boxes with groceries to prepare them for shipping. The automated hive consists of a grid storage system, which is a metal structure filled with products that have to reach customers who place online orders. All the items are placed in totes, which are like open boxes.

Ocado created a network of fully automated bots that are on duty 24/7, eliminating downtime. The machines move more than a million items a day, with each bot covering a distance of approximately 37 miles (60 km) every day. According to Ocado, their robots are so reliable and durable, that each of them travels a distance equivalent to London-New York before it requires any maintenance.

Even though the warehouse is swarming with bots that are working only 0.1 inches (5 mm) one from another, there are no accidents and the whole operation works flawlessly. The bots travel at speeds of 13 ft per second (4 meters per second).

There are sensors underneath each bot so that when a certain square in the grid is covered, a laser takes note of that so the robot knows it’s already passed that certain cell in the warehouse. All the products are moved by the machines in the packing area, where both human employees as well as robotic arms take over.

A green pulsating light on the bot means the machine does exactly what it is supposed to, while an orange one indicates the robot is experiencing something within its sensors so it is safely stopped for investigation. A team of grid operators placed at the edge of the grid overlooks the entire hive and can control the bots remotely.