Coles Opens Its First Automated Distribution Centre

Coles opens its first automated distribution centre

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese opened the centre in Redbank.

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26 May 2023

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The first Australian automated distribution centre (ADC) using Witron technology is promoted as being the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Coles Group Chair James Graham and Coles Group CEO Steven Cain officially opened the ADC at Goodman's Redbank Motorway Estate, south-west of Brisbane, in late April.

This is the first of two Witron facilities to open in Australia and comes after Coles Group's biggest investment into technology in the company's 109-year history. More than $1 billion is being invested, with the second ADC to open at Kemps Creek in western Sydney in 2024.

The ADCs are designed to create safer and more sustainable outcomes for team members and suppliers, and better on-shelf availability for customers.

The facility in Redbank is 30km south-west of Brisbane and will service 219 Coles supermarkets in Queensland and northern NSW, as far north as Port Douglas and as far south as Laurieton, on the NSW mid-north coast.

When operating at full capacity, the site can process up to four million cases per week, the equivalent of 32 million units sold in stores. Over the course of a year, this around 1.6 billion sales units.

Outgoing CEO Mr. Cain said it was "one of the most significant moments since Coles was founded in 1914 and five years in the making."

"Modernising our operations is how we improve efficiency and availability in our stores and deliver higher service levels for our customers, team members and suppliers," he said.

"Our new ADCs can process twice the number of cases and hold twice the number of pallets compared with one of our current DCs. The ADCs enable us to half our current total footprint, leading to a more productive and sustainable business model."

"Over 90 percent of the cases processed in these automated distribution centres will be processed fully by automation, or ergonomically, which will be a step-change for the safety of our team as it eliminates almost 18 million kilograms of manual handling in the supply chain each week once the ADC is running close to full capacity."

Mr Graham thanked those involved for their dedication to the important project.

"I'm proud of our team, partners and suppliers who've worked together for over five years to create this state-of-the-art facility," he said. "Over 3,000 people came together, contributing more than 2.5 million work hours to plan and design the facility, construct the building and install and commission the automation."

The Redbank ADC has LED and sensor lighting to reduce energy consumption and is fitted with 180,000 litres of harvested rainwater storage for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. There are plans for 3.5-megawatt solar installation, which will be among the largest rooftop solar solutions in the Coles network. To minimise food waste, the edible food that can't be sold in the ADC will be donated to Coles community partner SecondBite.

Mr Albanese said this world-leading technology would help advance supermarket supply chains.

This technology is not only a first for Australia, but also a win for the state of Queensland. Resilient supply chains are essential when it comes to feeding our nation and providing Australians with essential supplies.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

"Coles is one of the biggest employers in this country and its team was pivotal in ensuring food security during challenging times. A facility like this one in Redbank shows how retailers and manufacturers can look to the future to improve the productivity, safety, and sustainability of their operations for all Australians."

Ms. Palaszczuk welcomed the significant investment in the "strong" Queensland economy.

"The decision to invest in and build this Australian-first facility here in Queensland is a testament to the strength of the Queensland economy," she said.

"Coles' investment will drive productivity growth in Queensland while ensuring food security to one of the fastest-growing regions in the country."

"It's great to see Queensland lead the way with the arrival of world-leading technology at the Redbank distribution centre which will be powered by renewable electricity provided by Queensland's publicly owned energy company, CleanCo."

Witron Logistics CEO Helmut Prieschenk said Coles had partnered with the market leader in warehouse automation systems for major food retailers globally.

"We've been engaged to build 93 automated distribution centres in 13 different countries, with the latest for Coles being the largest ambient system Witron has ever built," he said.

"Witron will work with Coles to provide a technology-focused, multi-disciplinary team for day-to-day operations, technical expertise, and maintenance support."

Witron founder Walter Winkler says he is extremely proud that, together with Coles, a powerful logistics platform has been created.

"This ADC is for the benefit of the entire supply chain and will help the Australian grocery market by introducing the very best technology," Mr. Winkler said, "and last but not least, it creates great value to the Coles business."

Coles thanked its partners and consultants, Goodman Group, Richard Crookes Constructions and TMX Transform.

This article was originally published by RetailWorld on May 26, 2024.

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