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Ocado reveals robot battery charger caused Andover warehouse fire

Ocado warehouse fire

A malfunction with a charging unit for robots was to blame for the recent fire at the Ocado warehouse in Andover, the retailer has revealed.

The circular letter to investors said that a specific type of battery charging on the robotic grid had caused the plastic lid on a robot to catch fire.

Ocado said it had undertaken a number of safety measures to prevent another fire, including removing the plastic lid and introducing localised smoke detectors. In the future, the grocer will also add heat sensors in the storage grid.

Ocado said the charging units were only used at the Andover distribution centre.

It concluded that the “assessment of the reasons for the fire at CFC 3 gives the Board confidence that, going forward, there are no significant implications for the risk profile of the Group’s assets or the viability of the Group’s model, and therefore for either Ocado Retail or the rest of the Group.”

Ocado has used its warehouse automation technology in the company’s own online delivery operations as well as sold it to retail giants such as Casino. The fire, which started on 5 February, led to a fall in the company’s share price amidst concerns about the safety of its bespoke automation technology.

Ocado has opened two sites recently in Andover and Erith. The two sites in Andover and Erith use the Smart Platform, a combined hardware and software platform for fulfilling orders. The sites feature 4G-connected robots which carry crates around a grid system to put together orders.

The Andover facility opened at the end of 2016, with the site chosen because of its direct access to the A303, while Erith, near the M25, opened in mid-2018.

There are now four major distribution depots, with the first established in 2001 in Hatfield and the second in 2013 in Dordon.

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