Cutting-edge automation will help improve restocking, reducing congestion in stores, and enabling a safer work environment .
Australian supermarket giant, Woolworths Group plans to automate its regional distribution centre and semi-automate its national distribution centre (DC) in the Moorebank Logistics Park in the state of New South Wales (NSW).
Set to open in 2023 and 2024, the two distribution centres are expected to provide around 650 jobs once fully operational, along with about 1000 jobs during construction.
Both sites will build on semi-automated and automated technology deployed at Woolworths’ Melbourne South Regional Distribution Centre, which has been servicing Victorian stores for more than 12 months.
Woolworths Group will invest around AU$700 – AU$780 million in the technology and fit out of the two distribution centres over the next four years and has signed an initial lease term of 20 years with Qube Holdings Limited.
Qube will invest around AU$420 – AU$460 million to build the warehouses. Each warehouse is targeting a Five Star Green Star Design and As-Built rating and will incorporate various sustainability initiatives including solar PV systems, LED warehouse lighting and rainwater harvesting, said Paul Graham chief supply chain officer at Woolworths.
“The investment at Moorebank will transform the way we serve our NSW stores, strengthen our network and deliver on our ambition to create Australia’s best food and grocery supply chain,” he said.
“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.
Graham said the new facilities will also help progress its ranging efforts, with the ability to hold more products centrally than in existing facilities.
“We’ve learnt a lot from our ground-breaking development at the Melbourne South Regional Distribution Centre (MSRDC),” he said. “After hitting new volume milestones and dramatically improving the speed and accuracy of deliveries, MSRDC is now consistently supporting our Victorian stores – giving us confidence that now is the right time to invest in this new technology for our NSW network.”
Infrastructure investments by the federal and state government at Moorebank Logistics Park were key to Woolworths’ site selection.
Graham said the direct rail access to Port Botany will provide strategic benefits for Woolworths’ transport network and help remove at least 26,000 of its truck movements from NSW roads each year.
Once established, the Moorebank facilities will replace the current ambient operations at Woolworths’ Sydney Regional Distribution Centre (Minchinbury), Sydney National Distribution Centre (Yennora) and Melbourne National Distribution Centre (Mulgrave). These sites are expected to close by 2025. Temperature controlled fresh food distribution will continue out of Sydney Regional Distribution Centre (Minchinbury).
“We’ll look to offer redeployment opportunities wherever possible with 650 roles available at the new Moorebank sites, as well as providing a wide range of support and career transition services to our team well before site closures,” said Graham.
Woolworths Group has also committed to a long-term investment in supporting its team members with the skills and training required for the workforce of tomorrow. Woolworths Group will partner with third-party organisations to ensure team members are prepared for the evolving changes technology and innovation will bring to the workforce.
According to Woolworths the two distribution centres are subject to NSW Government planning approval. A planning application seeking approval for the newly announced facilities will shortly be lodged with the NSW Department of Planning.