Powering the future of retail through sustained disruptive technology innovation
Achieving this vision means we need to be constantly reinventing ourselves, learning fast, evolving our craftsmanship, and taking risks.
Working at Ocado Technology is like being on a roller coaster that is still under construction, there is always another exciting new barrel roll or vertical loop around the corner.
What if we could revolutionise the way people shop forever, by giving them a uniquely innovative and greener alternative to traditional grocery shopping?
At the beginning of the year 2000, that what if? became let’s do it!, when Tim Steiner, Jason Gissing and Jonathan Faiman founded Ocado. It’s a huge understatement to say that a lot’s happened since then. Ocado has grown from three people in a single-roomed office in London, into a business with roughly 12,600 employees serving hundreds of thousands of customers across the UK. Ocado Technology makes up over 1,300 of those employees, with development offices in the UK and three other locations in Europe.
Today, Ocado is the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer, reaching over 74% of British households, shipping 296,000 orders per week, and growing fast. But that’s not all. We also develop the Ocado Smart Platform, an end-to-end solution to put other grocery retailers around the world online.
With everything from websites to warehouses designed in-house, our departments are specialists in a wide range of technologies.
Automation and robotics
Warehouse automation is one of the key differentiators for Ocado in the online grocery retail market. Our most ambitious project is the Ocado Smart Platform hive we're building with Ocado Engineering which includes thousands of robots working together to retrieve from storage the groceries comprising a customer order. Over time, more and more of these groceries will be packed by sensor-guided robot manipulators. We also have two ambitious Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation projects called SecondHands and SoMa which combine state of the art robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced sensors to understand and assist human warehouse workers in real time.
Data science and artificial intelligence
Machine learning is a core competency at Ocado. Artificial intelligence has transformed how customers and companies interact with each other. Ocado Technology uses machine learning to develop predictive analytics, implement advanced monitoring and oversight, manage the operations complexity, and achieve real-time optimisation of services. Our data science teams work on advanced projects using programming languages, tools and frameworks such as TensorFlow, Tableau, Python, Spark or Google Cloud Machine Learning in areas related to computer vision, natural language processing, or demand forecasting.
Big data and the cloud
Ocado Technology is a lead partner for Amazon AWS and Google Cloud Platform. Ocado uses advanced data analytics and cloud storage to deliver groceries to more than 721,000 active shoppers. Our cloud and data teams collect and process data from customer-facing websites, warehouses, delivery vans and beyond to provide a more personalised shopping experience to customers, optimise warehouse operations, empower the supply chain, speed decision-making and reduce costs.
Web and app development
Ocado was the first grocery supermarket to launch Android, iOS and watchOS apps. With the move into a digital era, the retail sector is becoming increasingly diverse and requires the strategic use of applications to offer new immersive and interactive methods of shopping. Combining beautiful aesthetics with pioneering functionality that offers unique ways to shop, we have helped to create applications which deliver an exciting, informative and tailored experience – whilst using intelligent technologies to remove the complexity of keeping it all managed and up-to-date.
Algorithms and smart optimization
Our systems make 3 million routing calculations per second. Ocado’s systems continuously monitor stock at the individual product level and compute multiple sales forecasts for every product in every warehouse. Warehouse replenishment systems are designed to automatically re-order stock from suppliers within the constraints of maximising product life and availability to customers while minimising waste and stock holding.
Simulation modeling is commonly used at Ocado for several warehouse operations. Making highly optimal choices for physical devices, layout and algorithms is often beyond human capability, but getting it right is extremely important for any business. Companies can optimise by trial and error in production (often this is expensive, risky and slow) or they can create software to identify highly optimal choices. Ocado uses discrete event simulation for this purpose. This gives us deterministic, faster than real-time scenario and soak testing, allowing us to create systems that would otherwise be too complex to test and debug.