A setback for the agenda.
Coles’ hyped “army of factory robots” will be delayed after the company confirms changes to construction timelines which will ultimately cost the group over $100 million more than estimated.
The ASX-listed grocery retailer has been working with British retail technology group Ocado to build two robotic facilities for home deliveries in Victoria and New South Wales.
However, this will have to wait a little longer, with delays to the project timeline set to increase the project capital and operating expenditure for the project by $50 million and $70 million respectively.
Overall capital expenditure for the project is expected to be $400 million.
In a statement to the ASX, Coles said that Ocado had informed it that there would be a delay in handing over the Victorian facility because more work was required to “rectify construction issues” with the grid.
The company also added: “Following further engagement with Ocado and in light of the revised hand over date, the commissioning of the Victorian customer fulfilment centre will be delayed with the incremental ramp up period now expected to commence in mid-FY25 (previously mid-FY24)”.
Mid-2025 is now the timeline for Victoria, while the Ocado fulfilment centre in NSW is now set to come online at the end of the second half of the 2024 financial year instead of early 2024.
The company has already opened its 34-metre high Witron facility in Queensland in April, but now with two other states facing delays, it will force a setback to their agenda for now.
These ‘robotic delivery centres’ are part of broader automation plans for Australian supermarkets, which include machine-driven distribution centres that deliver dry goods to stores.
THE AUTOMATED AGENDA
In 2019, we first reported on the push by Coles and Woolworths to begin their shift to automated workforces as part of a massive long-term ‘cost-cutting’ initiative.
Fast forward just a few years later, and it’s not just supermarkets that have adopted this new agenda into their company policies, but other industries like retail have also built their own automated systems.
It was predicted in 2020, during lockdown periods, that automation of key logistics facilities at would inevitably lead to the loss of 700 jobs at Woolworths alone.
And automation isn’t just limited to the warehouses either. Just a few months ago, Coles said they would once again pushing ahead with dystopian plans for ‘hybrid’ self-checkout systems.
This is the first step towards complete removal of checkouts in Coles and Woolworths by 2030, as the groups look to incorporate biometric technologies in an Amazon-inspired ‘checkout free’ system.
Indeed, our supermarkets are front-and-center in the transition towards a robotic surveillance state, slowly incorporating more cameras and sensors to watch customers’ every move.
They are even pushing Australia towards a cashless society, with Woolworths trialling a ban on cash payments at 11 CBD stores in Melbourne and Sydney in 2020.
Thankfully, due to backlash, Woolworths were forced to abandon this trial. Not to mention the existing backlash to all of the plans we have just discussed, which offers a glimmer of hope in the end.
Let’s hope that community responses, as well as the good old variable of budget blowouts from greed/mismanagement, will bide us more time or derail these plans entirely.
Sucked in, Coles.
You deserve what you get for the part you are playing in selling out our great country.
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