Skypod and 3D wraps, how Cdiscount warehouses are moving into the era of robotization

There is something hypnotic about the ballet of 37 skypods that come and go to pick up and drop off packages, go up and down to ‘pick’ them from rows… Welcome to Building C, one of the site’s logistics warehouses. Cestas (Gironde) of online sales giant Cdiscount and its subsidiary Clogistic pushed the robotics cursor the farthest.

“Building C at Cestas is a concentration of technology and innovation,” affirms site director Olivier Josse. Here we find everything that we have applied for ten years to optimize our transport and packaging and to improve the working conditions for our employees. »

Robots that rise up to ten meters in height

The most effective is the skypod. Built by logistics robot giant Exotec, this 2,500 m2 perimeter of the warehouse is fully guarded, controlled by several remote operators who control small robots on wheels that can pick up packages of up to 15 kg in the 22,000 stacked bins. up to ten meters high.

“We started working with Exotec on this dynamic storage project in 2017,” recalls Olivier Josse. At that time, the company was a small startup. Cdiscount opened its warehouse doors to offer her a playground the size of a playground. “We started with a prototype of 6,000 bins in building B, today we have two larger bins, building C with 22,000 bins and 35,000 storage spaces and an even bigger one at our Réau site. 75,000 places with Ile-de-France. »

The storage space is divided into five

The principle of Skypod is based on the optimization of storage surfaces and is perfectly suited to the type of products stored in this building, mainly dedicated to high technology, with a lot of telephony and personal computers. Olivier Josse assures: “With Skypod, the storage surface is reduced by five compared to conventional storage, firstly because we go up to ten meters and this creates a very significant storage mass. In addition, we multiply the productivity by three: while a traditional picker on a trolley picks 100 products per hour , skypod harvests 350”.

The equipment is “completely scalable,” the site director continues: “we can add bays, boxes, robots…” So when Cdiscount’s activity picks up, especially between Black Friday and Christmas, “dozens of extra robots to boost that we rent. volume of production. »

85% of packaging is done by machines

Then the packages are packed. Building C has not finished surprising us in this area either. “We have also mechanized packaging with the aim of increasing speed and above all optimizing it, especially with the use of 2D and 3D machines that build packaging around the product,” continues Olivier Josse. This allows us to save 30% of boxes per year, 30% of empty space in parcels and 30% of trucks on the road…” So 85% of the packaging is machines, specifically four 3D packaging machines is carried out with Knowing that Cdiscount has two more in Réau.

However, innovation is not just about robots. “We now offer our customers not to add packaging for certain products,” said Olivier Josse. 98% of our customers adopt this solution, which saves 500,000 packages per year. We are also introducing reusable packaging with Hipli from the end of 2021: after receiving the product, the customer can put the empty packaging in the mailbox and it will be sent back to Hipli or used. to return the package. It can be reused a hundred times. »

“We will always need people”

Humans still have their exact place in the supply chain. “We are developing more and more bulk loading on trucks, which allows us to store boxes up to the top of the trailer, and this can only be done by operators, assures the director. This allows you to gain 30% more capacity in the truck. »

“We are constantly integrating new technologies into our warehouses, Olivier Josse continues, but without questioning the social part of our business. There is certainly an evolution in trading, but we will always need people and we are not aiming for a 100% robotic model. “Cdiscount employs 500 people on permanent contracts at Cestas, “and we increase our workforce from October to Christmas, during which time we do 30% of our shipments for the year. The online sales giant ships 24 million packages annually, including 12 million from the 105,000 m2 Cestas platform.

Since its successful experience with Exotec, Cdiscount has also established an internal start-up incubator. “This experience effectively led to the creation of The Warehouse, a department dedicated exclusively to scientific research in the field of logistics.” Tomorrow’s updates are currently under development.

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