Video: Autonomous robots deployed in Carrefour fulfilment centre in Dubai
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Video: Autonomous robots deployed in Carrefour fulfilment centre in Dubai

Video: Autonomous robots deployed in Carrefour fulfilment centre in Dubai

Claimed to be the first-of-its-kind facility in the Middle East, the centre is located at Carrefour in Ibn Battuta Mall

Carrefour fulfiment centre

UAE-based retail group and malls operator Majid Al Futtaim has launched its first automated fulfilment centre in Dubai to ensure faster and more efficient deliveries for online orders.

The company has collaborated with e-grocery innovator Takeoff Technologies to launch the centre at its Carrefour store in Ibn Battuta Mall.

Claimed to be the first-of-its-kind facility in the Middle East, the digitised storage picking facility automates the task of managing orders, reducing the time required to process them by half.

The centre utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to pick customers’ orders from the storage facility, which also includes a chilled section. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) assist staff at the facility to retrieve items and maintain stock levels as products leave the facility.

A dedicated inventory placement machine uses AI to allocate storage space for stock depending on each item’s popularity, improving stock availability for orders.

All orders are prepared within five minutes, cutting the average time between order placement and dispatch in half. The centre can process 200 orders every hour, a statement said.

The centre will focus on communities served by Carrefour Ibn Battuta.

“We can store more than 8,000 products in the centre,” said Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Retail.

“It can go up to 12,000 but we decided to stick to 8,000 most common products based on AI, so that will also help us to control out-of-stock products. Also, since for each product we have a code with the expiry date – we will know when the product will expire. Hence, this will also help to reduce waste overall.”

While Majid Al Futtaim embarked on digital transformation in 2015, the pandemic pushed the company to accelerate its strategy, he said. Carrefour recorded a 220 per cent per cent increase in online orders in 2020.

“We found ourselves trying to implement in 12 days what we wanted to do in 12 months. Last year, we managed open and convert more than 117 fulfilment centres – converting part of a store into a fulfiment centre for the online orders,” he said.

“Our first dark store (which caters exclusively to online shopping) in Deira [spread across 5,000sqm] opened last year. There we manage to do 700 orders [per day]. Now with robotisation – this new centre, spread across 2,500sqm, can go up to 2,100 orders – three times more. And it requires 60 per cent less in terms of manpower, so this helps us in upskilling and reskilling the team – which is crucial for the future,” he added.

The new centre is the first of three automated facilities planned to open in the first half of 2021, including a second one in Dubai and one in Jeddah. Majid Al Futtaim is also hoping to open a fourth centre in Abu Dhabi before the end of the year.

“The centres help us to be much closer to our customers. So you can build a huge centre in the middle of nowhere, but it will take a long time for us to reach the customer. Now in the UAE, we have more than 107 stores, so we can deploy more of these fulfilment centres,” said Weiss.

He also confirmed that the centres would not lead to any staff cuts.

“We are actually recruiting more staff because of our expansion plans. We opened 51 stores in 2020 and we are aiming for 100 stores this year, so we are recruiting more. I can assure you that our staff are being redeployed, upskilled and reskilled to do a much better job than what they were doing in the past,” he added.

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