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As part of the ongoing modernisation of its supply chain, leading retailer Officeworks has partnered with Körber Supply Chain to deploy a range of cutting-edge technology solutions.

This investment will improve Officeworks’ fulfilment capabilities, benefit the wellbeing of its team members and improve sustainability for the leading retailer.

Australia’s leading retailer of office products, stationery, services and solutions for micro, small and medium-size businesses, students, schools, and households has played a pivotal role in keeping the nation working, learning, creating, and connecting as the world has adapted to the ongoing challenge of COVID-19.

Whether ordering essential learning materials for home-schooling, setting up a home office with tech and furniture, or harnessing a creative passion, Officeworks has been the go-to retailer for all things work, education, creativity and connection.

As part of its ongoing transformation strategy, the Wesfarmers-owned retailer has engaged Körber Supply Chain to transform its Victorian customer fulfilment operation with leading technology solutions including automation, voice and warehouse management system (WMS). 

Far from strangers, the two businesses have worked together for more than five years. In 2015, Körber deployed a voice picking solution for Officeworks’ four Customer Fulfillment Centres and the global solutions provider has played a pivotal role in Officeworks’ innovation and transformation strategy over recent years.

Aside from improving fulfilment rates and speed to market, the key priority for Officeworks’ investment in technology was to further enhance employee wellbeing, safety, and job satisfaction through reducing repetitive tasks and manual handling. 

Furthermore, in an industry first, Officeworks has worked with Körber to install solar capabilities which will power the automation solution, enabling the retailer to reduce emissions.

Putting People First

Officeworks delivered strong results in the first half of the 2021 financial year. Underpinned by robust transaction growth and a positive response to Officeworks’ every channel offer, HY21 revenue increased by 23.7 per cent to $1.52 billion for the half. Earnings also increased 22 per cent to $100 million.

As Officeworks grows, the retailer maintains its focus on its team members. As a result, Officeworks has explored technology that enables it to not only fulfil at an increased speed and rate, but to ensure that it improves the environment for its team members. 

This includes the overall safety of team members and a reduction in repetitive or strenuous work. Impressively, the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) solution has significantly reduced the time that team members need to spend walking around the DC, which previously averaged 10-12km per shift.

Officeworks operates a sophisticated supply chain – receiving locally and internationally sourced product, servicing business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers online through its Customer Fulfilment Centres, as well as replenishing a network of 167 stores nationally.

COVID-19 drove a further increase in supply chain volume across both store and online channels, increasing demand on its supply chain and further highlighting the need for flexible and agile solutions to respond to sudden changes in customer needs.  

“The modular nature of the Körber solution enables Officeworks to increase the scale of its operations rapidly, without the time and cost associated with redesign and implementation of fixed infrastructure solutions,” Brett Kelly, Officeworks General Manager of Supply Chain says.

“We designed our solution to fit the needs of Officeworks, its customers and its future plans,” Rizan Mawzoon, Head of Transformation at Körber Supply Chain says. 

“At Körber, we look at technology with a much wider lens and as such it has been great to deliver some further benefits for Officeworks around sustainability, employee wellbeing and occupational health and safety.”

Growing with the Nation

The deployment of Körber’s AMR solution is taking place at the retailer’s 15,000 sqm Distribution Centre (DC) in Victoria. The deployment consists of 86 Geek+ manufactured AMRs and 30 Geek+ sortation robots. The robots will work in collaboration with fulfilment team members and facilitate picking across the site’s 25,000 stock keeping units (SKUs). 

The deployment of Körber’s sortation solution will make Officeworks the first company in Australia to deploy AMR sortation technology. By utilising AMRs, the Geek+ Floor Sortation solution provides Officeworks with dynamic sortation, with the robots taking the shortest and most direct path to offer Officeworks increased flexibility during peak periods.

As opposed to fixed automation, sortation robots can sort products based on urgency and postcode, creating further efficiencies along the supply chain. 

The solution also provides Officeworks with greater inventory control and has allowed the retailer to increase its delivery window for its next day and express delivery option, a win-win for small businesses and families who have an urgent need for office and education supplies. 

In addition to deploying Körber’s automation and voice picking solution, Officeworks has also implemented Körber’s Warehouse Advantage WMS.

The acclaimed solution was recently recognised as a “Leader” in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management System and will provide Officeworks with enhanced operational efficiencies and data insights to drive improvements across its customer experience and supply chain operations.

Solar-Powered Automation

With both businesses focused on developing responsible and sustainable solutions, Körber and Officeworks worked together to create a solution that is as sustainable as possible.

Officeworks has worked with Körber to install LED lighting, a building energy management and a solar photovoltaics system, which will power the automation solution, enabling the retailer to operate an energy efficient distribution centre. The facility will also contain a battery storage unit in the near future. 

Officeworks is committed to reducing its operational impact on the environment with a net zero ambition, using 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025, as part of their roadmap for net-zero emissions by 2030. Officeworks worked with Körber to install solar on the roof of the DC to power the new technology.

As a result, solar panels will be installed to ensure that the new technology, including voice, WMS and AMR has reduced emissions. This will be the first ever solar-powered AMR solution in Australia.

This initiative will also improve over time, with Körber analysing the data and making changes around the times of day that the robots will be charged to provide further efficiencies. 

In addition, the materials used in the racking utilise a cardboard that is made from 40 per cent recycled material, and research is underway to explore further opportunities to increase this.

Supply Chain Synergies

Officeworks Managing Director Sarah Hunter says the partnership and investment puts Officeworks in a great position to cope with rising demands and volumes well into the future and will enable the company to focus on remaining agile and adaptable to meet the evolving needs of its customers. 

 “Over the past two years we have experienced strong growth, both in store and online. To ensure the safest and most efficient ways of working for our team members across our supply chain as well as providing better service for our customers and stores, we have partnered with Körber to develop a fit for purpose supply chain solution with flexible automation, voice picking technology and a new Warehouse Management System, which will enable us to continue to grow well into the future.” Sarah says.

“A key ingredient in the project’s success is the opportunity for our team to expand their skillset with hands-on technical training – investing in them to have the right skills and enabling them to continue to grow their careers with Officeworks.”

“We’re honoured to work with another cutting-edge retailer in the Wesfarmers group and prove the case for flexible and agile technology through automation, technology and sophisticated software solutions,” Nishan Wijemanne, Managing Director APAC and Global Leader of Robotics at Körber Supply Chain says.

“This project demonstrates our ability to provide our partners with a number of different solutions, creating synergies and efficiencies across the supply chain. We are proud to call Officeworks our partner and we look forward to continuing to work with them through the next steps of their supply chain transformation journey.” 

With the solutions now rolled out at Officeworks’ Victorian CFC, the leading retailer is looking at further applications of Körber technology solutions across its supply chain.

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