Active Ants opens semi-automated fulfilment centre

bpost’s e-commerce fulfilment subsidiary Active Ants has moved into a new fulfilment centre in Roosendaal in the Netherlands where autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and humans will work together.

“Storage, picking and sorting are all fully automated. Employees form an efficient team with robots for the order picking. The return flow and the receipt of goods continue to be processed manually,” explained Jeroen Dekker, managing partner at Active Ants. “This mechanization leads to greater efficiency, high quality and a pleasant work environment for our employees. The setup is unique in the world.”

The human/AMR system works with 65 robots bringing empty boxes to the human staff who fill them with goods that have been brought by another set of 40 AMRs. A third group of robots then take the packages to packaging machines where they are weighed and sealed.

Active Ants claims that the new hybrid human/AMR system allows the warehouse to store up to six times more goods per square metre than human-only warehouses.

A box-sealing machine with integrated printer has been specially designed for Active Arts, allowing the creation of personalised printed boxes for every customer. “This unique functionality allows us to create personalised packaging for not just large but now also for small online stores,” said Jean Lahaye, managing partner at Active Ants. “There is no longer any need to keep hundreds of pallets of preprinted boxes. That cuts customer costs and further shrinks the footprint.”

There are plans to refurbish an existing bpost site in Boom, Belgium and to semi-automate it in the same way to help maintain bpost’s market domination across Belgium and the Netherlands.

“I’m proud of this new step in our e-commerce logistics activities in the Netherlands,” concluded Jean-Paul van Avermaet, CEO of bpost group. “This shows not only that we are transforming our business in the right way to respond to the changing needs of our customers, but also that we have the courage to deploy state-of-the-art technology and innovation on the market to make our mark worldwide. I wish the colleagues at Active Ants huge success in this new step and look forward to the opening in Belgium.”