Design Engineering
Showcase

Ocado Technology

Team
10X Technology
Supervisor
Dr Nan Li
Role
Technology Intern
Sector
Retail and Consumer Goods

My internship at Ocado was done remotely for 3 months starting July, delayed due to COVID-19. Ocado is well known for their warehouse systems, its hugely successful online grocery business and the licensing of the platform to its international partners. However, as a technology driven company, there is always a need for innovation. My internship goal was to design and manufacture prototypes of a new warehouse concept. The now patented concept serves as a first step towards the final outcome of this project. The prototyped system was used for testing and evaluation, crucial to develop the next designs. The internship was done in conjunction with an electrical engineering intern who committed half of his time helping me with electronics.

 — Ocado Technology

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

Research:

The project started off as a concept, with basic images and models. So the first step was to define project specifications and constraints before some research. Within my research, I was trying to find similar concepts which have been done by other companies, or potentially systems which serve a similar purpose.

Ideation:

I then continued with divergent ideation. What I looked for were concepts that worked well on paper but were also easy to build and easy to tweak. For such a broad project like this, having some initial structure which worked would allow others in the future to easily build on what I’ve designed. A simpler design would also allow people to understand the basic concept faster, and focus on the potential of the system as well as the intricate details.

CAD Modelling + Prototyping:

I designed the whole system on solidworks, letting me inspect parts for assembly and design around mechanical mates. I was also provided with a prusa 3D printer to manufacture and iterate parts much quicker. Ocado also sent me component parts to build from home, allowing me to fully assemble my design before sending it back for testing. Before designing the system, I ideated many potential solutions to the problem and chose ones which I believed would be simple enough to work well. Though I do not have much industry experience, I have tried and tested many mechanisms in design engineering projects, as well as in my external projects, allowing me to make justified decisions on which mechanisms to use.

Testing and Evaluation:

After sending prototypes back to Ocado, the other intern assisting me with electronics could assemble his components onto the prototypes and test its functionality. Any positive or negative feedback is then discussed, and a new version is created to satisfy the new requirements.

As the project can be used in many areas of Ocado, building a simple system would be best, allowing different versions of the project outcome to branch out and be developed for its intended purpose. My internship at Ocado only spanned 3 months, but it was enough time for me to see the impact this project will have in many areas. Presenting my concept to all of Ocado Technology also gave me insight into what others see as valuable in my project and also what version of my project they will most benefit from.

The final outcomes of my internship were a few fully built prototypes: useful for future development, animations and visualizations of the overall system, and fully designed Solidworks CAD model systems.

 — Ocado Technology

Role and Contributions

I was employed at Ocado as a technology intern with some focus in mechatronic assemblies. Creating CAD models and generating IP were my biggest contributions to the company. Ocado 10x works on many projects in parallel, and so my time as an intern is also very valuable because these projects boost the capacity for the team to explore and develop emerging ideas more rapidly. As a design engineer, my role is useful across many stages of the process, but the most useful stage is the initial design stage, working with uncertain briefs and open ended design questions. My design engineering knowledge allows me to direct the design brief to a productive state ready for future development.

Studying design engineering allowed me to bring knowledge in mechatronics, design for manufacture, design for assembly, 3D printing, prototyping and iteration, and also CAD modelling skills to Ocado. This enabled me to build on my existing knowledge, strengthening these skills while also learning how a large company like Ocado convert these skills into meaningful innovation. A smaller scale example of this is component selection. Selecting the right parts for the project is crucial to its overall functionality, they make or break a successful project, and therefore requires in-depth knowledge of the project specification and its requirements. A larger example would be how the project would affect the company in the future, and what steps I can take to prepare the project for patenting, or for future development and implementation. As such, I considered multiple potential working mechanisms for development, high level future steps after I leave, how the project will be implemented into Ocado, and also what the requirements are for the implementation.

 — Ocado Technology

Summary

In summary, my Ocado internship has been a fulfilling and educating journey, which aimed to develop a new warehouse concept for future implementation. I have successfully designed and manufactured several prototypes which performed well in testing but also were useful for finding areas of weakness and improvement. Thanks to this internship, I have gained knowledge and experience in industry projects, learned a lot from my project supervisors, and had a great time working with the entire team.

 — Ocado Technology
Current warehouse implementation.

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