Woolworths has announced plans to construct a new automated customer fulfilment centre (CFC) in Auburn, NSW to serve the online grocery needs of Western Sydney customers.
The development application for the CFC is now subject to NSW Department of Planning approval. If approved, the 22,000sqm Auburn CFC will support up to 250 full-time equivalent roles and around 440 jobs during construction.
The facility will be built in partnership with Knapp, whose automation technology will help Woolworths’ personal shoppers pick and dispatch up to 50,000 home deliveries a week in Western Sydney.
The centre will use Knapp’s ‘lift and shuttle’ technology to process 50,000 Woolworths online grocery orders a week – double its current production rate using existing online hubs.
The technology, which uses high-speed shuttles to move boxes or bags to around a dozen human ‘personal shoppers’ and at least one robotic picker, will make selections from the automated CFC cheaper than from a manual CFC.
The plans come as Woolworths reported eCommerce sales growth of 92% from July-December 2020, with online sales now accounting for around 8% of total sales.
“We’ve seen an extraordinary acceleration in online grocery shopping over the past year,” WooliesX Managing Director, Amanda Bardwell said.
“As we look ahead, we expect more and more customers will turn to the ease and convenience of home delivery to reclaim time in their busy lives. To keep pace with the demand, we need to innovate with new technology to boost capacity and ensure we’re continuing to offer the best possible online grocery experience,” she said.
“This fulfilment centre will deliver a step change in our online offer for our Western Sydney customers. With Knapp’s world-class automation, our team of personal shoppers will be able to pick many more orders – offering our customers faster delivery options and extra windows to choose from.”
Subject to planning approvals, construction is expected to commence in 2021, ahead of an operational launch by 2024.
“In collaboration with Woolworths, we’ve developed a highly automated and economical concept for online grocery,” Knapp Vice President Food Retail Solutions, Rudolf Hansl said.
“Our proven technologies enable fast and efficient customer order fulfillment. We’re very pleased to partner with Woolworths and look forward to working together for years to come.”
Auburn is the next stage of eCommerce investment following strong growth and increased scale. It builds on recent investments with Takeoff’s micro-fulfilment system (using Knapp automation technology) live at Carrum Downs, Victoria, Moorehouse, Christchurch and Penrose, Auckland. A further site is under construction at Maroochydore, Queensland.
The Auburn site at 11-13 Percy Street forms part of an industrial precinct including warehouses, manufacturing, freight logistics and large format retail. The plans provide for two levels of ancillary office space, car parking for more than 330 cars with private vehicle access via Percy Street, and loading and delivery docks with delivery vehicle access via Percy Street. The proposal also includes rainwater harvesting, solar panels and electric vehicle charging facilities, and the building will target a 5-Star Green Star Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.