Ocado robot charger malfunctions, 370 jobs eliminated

Occurred: February 2019

The malfunctioning of a robot charger resulted in a major fire at an Ocado distribution centre in Andover, UK, and in the cancellation of customer deliveries. 

An electrical fault in a battery charging unit led to the plastic lid on the top of a grocery-carrying robot catching alight. The fire resulted in substantial damage to the warehouse and required nearby houses to be evacuated. 

The blaze lasted four days. It was later discovered that an automated detection system had failed and that employees had turned off the sprinklers and tried to tackle the fire, only calling the fire brigade after one hour. 

Following the incident, Ocado took steps to minimise the risk of such an event occurring again, including installing additional smoke detectors and removing the plastic lid on its robots.

The incident cost the firm an estimated GBP 110 million, excluding insurance cover, and led to the elimination of 370 jobs.

July 2021. Three robots collided at an Ocado warehouse in Erith, south-east London, resulting in the facility's evacuation and the cancellation of thousands of customer orders

➕ August 2021. Ocado's Andover facility re-opened.

Operator: Ocado
Developer: Ocado
Country: UK
Sector: Transport/logistics
Purpose: Pick groceries
Technology: Robotics
Issue: Employment; Safety

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: November 2021