Woolworths automation set to replace 700 jobs

Around 700 jobs at Woolworths will be lost to the rise of new technologies, as the company automates key logistics facilities in Sydney and Melbourne.

Unions have slammed the organisation as “heartless” for deciding to replace warehouse workers with robots, after employees put in extra effort during the COVID-19 saga.

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The robot revolution is here. Photo: ABC News

REPLACEMENT BEGINS

Woolworths is pushing ahead with plans to overhaul working forces with automated robots, with new announcements to replace staff slammed by union groups.

The organisation will close three warehouses with a total of 1,350 staff in Minchinbury and Yennora in Sydney, and Mulgrave in Melbourne. All three centres will be closed in 2025.

Woolworths said that less than half those workers — just 700 staff — will be redeployed to automated and semi-automated distribution centres located in the Sydney suburb of Moorebank.

It is connected by rail to Port Botany, and Woolworths chief supply chain officer Paul Graham said it will mean at least 26,000 fewer truck movements per year on Sydney’s roads:

“Cutting-edge automation will build tailored pallets for specific aisles in individual stores, helping us improve on-shelf product availability with faster restocking, reducing congestion in stores, and enabling a safer work environment for our teams with less manual handling.”

Woolworths has set aside $176 million to cover potential redundancy costs for existing staff, while the union body has slammed the announcement and backed the community during this shift.

“The announcement by Woolworths to replace our members’ jobs with robots is particularly heartless given the back-breaking work our members did to support Woolworths through COVID and make them massive profits,” Matt Toner from the United Workers Union said.

The new centres will be owned by Qube logistics and initially leased by Woolworths for 20 years.

Woolworths is planning to invest $700-780 million in the technology and fit-out of the new distribution centres, while Qube will invest between $420-460 million to build them.

Graham said the company had seen the benefits of the new, automated Melbourne South Regional Distribution Centre and was looking to build on those in New South Wales.

THE AUTOMATION SHIFT 

Supermarkets have already announced they will be launching new “electronic workforces”, including the recent launching of automated warehouses in the same region.

Woolworths first announced their intentions to transition to automation in April 2018, revealing a new $215 million fully automated facility that will be “the biggest and most advanced automated distribution centre in the southern hemisphere”.

The company tested their automated distribution warehouse last year, after completion of the facility in September 2018.

Soon after, Woolworths released a promotional video to demonstrate the extent of processes achievable in an automated setting, including multi-storey racking systems, robotic high-speed conveyor and sorting systems:

Coles also struck a deal with British online supermarket group Ocado to run its website and distribution warehouses by 2023, which will double home-delivery capacity.

Negotiations included plans to launch a new website and build two highly automated “fulfillment centers” in Melbourne and Sydney, replacing five existing distribution outlets. The news today likely signifies this replacement process is going ahead.

Ocado was founded in 2000 by three former Goldman Sachs bankers and now has a 20 per cent share of the multi-billion dollar online grocery market.

The world of supermarkets has already changed dramatically in wake of the COVID-19 saga, with social distancing guidelines, cashless pushes, changed layouts and more.

This shift is only set to increase in the future, with Australian supermarkets predicted to become “checkout free” within 10 years, according to a Coles executive.

No doubt, artificial intelligence and automation will continue to be pushed moving forward, now aided by calls behind the scenes to provide ‘solutions’ following COVID-19. How ironic.

Given online grocery sales were expected to hit $3.3 billion this year alone, before the ‘crisis’ hit, it should come as no surprise that other corporations are wanting to move in and capitalise. 

AMAZON MOVES IN

Online retail giant Amazon is building one of the largest warehouses in Australia in its latest efforts to expand its operations in the country. It will be roughly the size of Taronga Zoo.

Construction on the 200,000 square metre robotics fulfilment centre has already begun at Kemps Creek in Sydney’s west, close to the under-construction Western Sydney airport. 

Amazon has ‘set the standard’ for warehouse automation, opening more than 50 robotics fulfilment centres across the world. This project will be the first in Australia:

Impression of Amazon’s new warehouse. Photo: ABC News

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres said the jobs on offer were “not the traditional warehouse jobs we’ve seen in the past”:

“We are creating new opportunities for technicians, computer engineers, computer programmers and bringing more smart jobs to where people live here in Western Sydney.”

It will incorporate the company’s latest robotics systems where robots move shelves to workers therefore reducing the amount of walking employees have to do and improving processing times.

The centre will stock up to 11 million items and is expected to begin delivering packages to NSW residents by Christmas 2021.

The future looks bleak. More than five million jobs — or almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs that exist today — have a “moderate to high likelihood” of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years due to technological advancements, a CEDA report being has found.

Once again, how ‘ironic’ that the timing of this monumental shift just happens to coincide with the aimed completion of the Agenda 2030 plan. Smart cities, digital tracking and identification, a cashless society and the introduction of the Internet of Things (5G, AI, etc.)

We are witnessing the Birth of a Brave New World before our very eyes.

When will Australians fight back? Will you be a part of The Great Split?


RELATED CONTENT

Woolworths to cut 1,350 jobs and admits it owes at least $90m more to underpaid workers | The Guardian

Robots ARE coming for your job: Woolworths vows to splurge $780m on ‘automated’ distribution centres so they can slash up to 700 warehouse jobs | The Daily Mail

Supermarkets begin switch to automated workforces | TOTT News

Amazon reveals plan to build huge robot warehouse in Western Sydney | ABC News

Supermarkets to be ‘checkout free’ by 2030 | TOTT News



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3 comments on “Woolworths automation set to replace 700 jobs”

  1. Not surprised to say the least, the rise of automation will make mankind obsolete in the future and thus reliant on government income.

  2. It seems people will become redundant altogether and robots will be the new consumers. The old addage “business would be great if it wasn’t for customers”!

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