Coles Unveils Australia’s First Automated Warehouse for Supermarkets

Coles, a major supermarket chain in Australia, has revealed a significant transformation in its operations by introducing an automated warehouse to replace human packers with advanced machines. This pioneering automated distribution centre, situated in Brisbane, is the first of its kind in the country and will utilise cutting-edge robots instead of traditional warehouse workers.

The colossal warehouse stands at an impressive height of 35 meters and boasts a floor plan twice the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It primarily houses essential grocery items destined for over 200 Coles stores across Queensland and New South Wales. Coles believes that this automated warehouse will contribute to lowering the cost of groceries for consumers.

Within the warehouse, products are placed on trays that travel along a conveyor belt. A sophisticated sorting and packing system determines the most efficient way to stack these items on pallets according to each grocery store’s specific order. When supermarkets require restocking, the pallets are promptly delivered to the respective stores.

The entire process is facilitated by a software and robotics system that collects data on each product, enabling faster processing, greater accuracy, and reduced damage compared to human handling. Coles’ Executive General Manager of Operations Strategy & Transformation, Kevin Gunn, emphasized the advantages of automation: “In automation, we achieve higher precision in product selection, minimize damages, and optimize pallet building. The system considers weight, size, and crushability factors.”

Mr. Gunn further explained that the automated machinery handles the packing and sorting tasks, eliminating the need for humans to engage in physically demanding tasks. He highlighted the substantial weekly reduction of over 80 million kilograms of lifting at this new site.

While concerns about job losses have been raised following the opening of the automated centre, Coles reassures the public that this transition will not lead to reduced employment. According to Coles’ chief operating officer, Matt Swindle, the company currently employs over 130,000 team members, a significant increase from 117,000 three years ago.

Although this facility is the first of its kind in Australia, Coles has plans to establish another similar warehouse in western Sydney next year, and a smaller automated site will also be introduced in Victoria.

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