Nestlé is to build a high-tech distribution centre to develop and test new warehousing ideas.
The food and drinks company is partnering with XPO Logistics to build a 60,000 m sq warehouse in Leicestershire that will “function as a testbed” for prototype robotics and automation technologies, including advanced sorting systems, predictive data analysis and “intelligent machines”.
The facility represents £55m of investment from the two companies and is expected to be operational in 2020.
David Hix, Nestlé director of supply chain, described the facility as a “flagship digital warehouse and technology laboratory” that would allow the company to be more responsive across its brands.
“Our partnership with XPO will encourage innovation and experimentation in our UK logistics operations and help future-proof our business,” he said.
The warehouse, which will be built in the Segro East Midlands Gateway Logistics Park, will be owned by XPO and will mainly handle Nestlé branded products including KitKat, Maggi and Nescafé.
XPO said it will use the facility to test its prototype technologies before they are launched globally. Richard Cawston, managing director of supply chain at XPO Logistics Europe, said: “Together [Nestlé and XPO] will create limitless opportunities to explore new technologies in a state-of-the-art logistics environment.
“The new East Midlands centre will operate as both a think tank and a launch pad for XPO innovations, with far-reaching impacts on the way business is done.”
Nestlé is the latest consumer goods company to invest into smart warehousing technology. The online grocery retailer Ocado has been investing heavily in robotics to streamline its fulfilment centres, while Amazon has invested in fleets of robots that bring shelves to human workers instead of making workers move around warehouses to locate products.
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