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CBRE Warehouse Showcase – Amazon Robotics fulfilment centre

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Australia’s biggest warehouse will hold more than 20 million shoppable products on the back of the country’s e-commerce boom. 

Amazon Australia’s mega robotics centre in the heart of Western Sydney will be the same size as Taronga Zoo, doubling the company’s footprint in Australia. 

The ground floor will control the in and out movements, with conveyors to send inventory to levels two, three and four. The products are stored into four sided towers or ‘cubes’ with different sized letter box spaces for certain products. The drive units or ‘bots’ then slide underneath the cubes, picking them up and moving them to a specified location. 

The fulfilment centre will have a total floor area of around 200,000 sqm across four levels – which Craig Fuller, Director of Operations Amazon Australia, says is equivalent to eight standard storeys. 

The robotic technology will increase the building’s storage capacity by up to 50 per cent versus a traditional building design, creating more space for inventory for Australian sellers and enabling Amazon to increase selection for customers. They also help speed order processing time by moving shelves to employees, thereby reducing the time taken to store items for sale or pick them for new customer orders. 

“The beauty of the technology is that all the spaces that you would normally require in a normal warehouse for aisle movement where forklifts or people move up and down aisles to pick products from the shelves, just disappear,” he says. “You don’t need it anymore because the robotic drives can move side-by-side and this can basically double the inventory footprint.”

Craig says once complete the centre could theoretically deliver products to 85 per cent of the population in 12 hours from its location in Western Sydney.

“When we receive the customer order the the inventory might be in multiple locations around the building,” Craig adds. “The order triggers movements among the drive units to move the different storage pods to a pick station where they present themselves in the right order so that we pick and then pack the product to be shipped out.”

Amazon has leveraged its international pedigree for the project, consulting with its teams around the world who have already developed similar robotics facilities, and adapting the design to reflect local nuances. For example, the Australian site uses an adapted dock layout and design to reflect the typical vehicles used in Australia. The local team also considered ways to future proof the building in light of the pandemic,  widening major thoroughfares and larger breakrooms to better enable social distancing.

“There’s lots of learnings we’ve taken from Italian and UK teams who built a similar centre a couple of years ago,” he says. “We’ve got the systems in place to capture those learnings so that the playbook we run with is being built from experience.”

Despite timelines being impacted by the challenges facing Western Sydney during the pandemic, construction and fit out of the warehouse is nearing completion and it is set to be operational in the first quarter of next year.  

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