Ocado’s largest store will not be able to fulfill the order of the online supermarket for several days after a malfunction of the robot has caused a fire.
Friday’s incident is the second major flame in three years in one of Ocado’s vast automated warehouses.
The closure this weekend of its Erith customer fulfillment center, which can process 150,000 orders a week for its retail joint venture with Marks and Spencer, has caused Ocado to delay or cancel thousands of orders.
“While we await some interruptions in operations, we are working to restore normal service as soon as possible,” Ocado he said. “We expect the facility to begin operations next week and we thank customers who have ordered for their patience.”
The London fire brigade said it had sent 15 motorcyclists and 100 firefighters to deal with the fire, after 800 staff from the three-storey establishment had been evacuated.
“The fire was deep and it was a challenging operation,” the fire brigade said he said, taking almost 14 hours to control. No injuries were reported.
Ocado said in a statement that the incident “appears to have been caused by the collision of three bots on the network.”
In Ocado’s “hive” system, more than a thousand robots buzz around a network, stopping to grab boxes of food, then depositing them for human pickers to pack customers ’orders.
“The damage is limited to a small section of less than 1 percent of the network, which has been contained by planned fire mitigation measures,” Ocado said. “In addition to some residual smoke odors, the vast majority of CFCs are in good condition.”
A robot fire was on even hit for the destruction of Ocado’s Andover warehouse in Hampshire in 2019, which cost the company raised about £ 110 million, excluding insurance coverage, and took more than two years to rebuild.
The reduced capacity in Andover has contributed to Ocado’s struggles to respond to growing customer demand during the Covid-19 closures in the UK, opening the door to increased competition in online food delivery.
Online food delivery services operating in the UK have received hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital financing this year.
The sophistication of Ocado’s robotic stores means they can take a long time to build. A second bot outbreak can also affect potential customers of its Solutions business, which sells its proprietary tracking system to other resellers, including Kroger in the United States and Casino in France.
The online store has been working to increase its CFC capacity by introducing smaller versions of its automated store to offer same-day delivery through its Ocado Zoom service.