Woolworths has announced plans to construct a new automated customer fulfilment centre (CFC) in Auburn, New South Wales to better serve the online grocery needs of Western Sydney customers.
The development application for the CFC is subject to NSW Department of Planning approval. If approved, the 22,000sqm Auburn CFC will support up to 250 full-time equivalent roles and around 440 jobs during construction.
The facility will be built in partnership with Knapp, whose automation technology will help Woolworths’ personal shoppers pick and dispatch up to 50,000 home deliveries a week in Western Sydney.
The plans come as Woolworths reported eCommerce sales growth of 92 per cent from July-December 2020. eCommerce sales now account for around eight percent of total sales.
“We’ve seen an extraordinary acceleration in online grocery shopping over the past year," said WooliesX Managing Director, Amanda Bardwell.
“As we look ahead, we expect more and more customers will turn to the ease and convenience of home delivery to reclaim time in their busy lives. To keep pace with the demand, we need to innovate with new technology to boost capacity and ensure we’re continuing to offer the best possible online grocery experience.
“This fulfilment centre will deliver a step change in our online offer for our Western Sydney customers. With Knapp’s world-class automation, our team of personal shoppers will be able to pick many more orders - offering our customers faster delivery options and extra windows to choose from.”
Subject to planning approvals, construction is expected to commence in 2021 ahead of an operational launch by 2024.
“In collaboration with Woolworths, we’ve developed a highly automated and economical concept for online grocery. Our proven technologies enable fast and efficient customer order fulfillment. We’re very pleased to partner with Woolworths and look forward to working together for years to come," said Knapp Vice President Food Retail Solutions, Rudolf Hansl.
Auburn is the next stage of eCommerce investment following strong growth and increased scale. It builds on recent investments with Takeoff’s micro-fulfilment system (using Knapp automation technology) live at Carrum Downs, Victoria, Moorehouse, Christchurch and Penrose, Auckland. A further site is under construction at Maroochydore, Queensland.
Auburn will use the same underlying Knapp technology at a much larger scale and is expected to deliver efficiency benefits as Woolworths unlocks new capacity for growth. Woolworths stores remain a key part of the eCommerce network, with investment to continue in Pick Up (including Direct to Boot), in-store fulfilment and on-demand delivery.
“Auburn and our other fulfilment centres play important roles complementing the work of our store teams. They help us better serve the most densely populated areas with the strongest demand for online groceries. Yet even as we invest in new fulfilment centres, local stores remain the heart of our online operation. By making the most of our unrivalled national store network, we can stay close to our customers for faster same day and on-demand delivery options, as well as convenient Pick Up solutions.”
The Auburn site at 11-13 Percy Street forms part of an industrial precinct including warehouses, manufacturing, freight logistics and large format retail. The plans provide for two levels of ancillary office space, car parking for more than 330 cars with private vehicle access via Percy Street, and loading and delivery docks with delivery vehicle access via Percy Street. The proposal also includes rainwater harvesting, solar panels and electric vehicle charging facilities, and the building will target a 5-Star Green Star Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.
In line with NSW planning policy, developments with a capital investment value of more than $50 million are considered State Significant Development (SSD) and can be assessed by the NSW Planning Department.