Tesco is to introduce a new automated system it claims will double its current pick rates for online grocery orders at its new e-commerce distribution centre in North London.

The new system goes live in January 2012 and will make the Enfield project Tesco’s most automated dark store, enabling it to take over online deliveries from nine London stores. 

Tesco said the new system, developed by logistics and materials handling specialists Dematic, would give it the edge over rivals as the mults and Ocado fight it out to secure online customers inside the M25.

“Dematic’s Multishuttle offers a number of advantages over similar systems, particularly its speed for loading,” said Tesco operations development manager David Burroughs. 

“We wanted to ensure we could get customers’ orders picked and vans loaded on time. It will reduce our running costs and offer customers more delivery slots earlier in the day. And it gives the accuracy we need to ensure the highest possible service levels.” 

The Dematic system works by routing order baskets - known as totes - to pick zones holding 18,000 ambient SKUs and 3,000 chilled SKUs. Tesco staff then pack the totes, following instructions received via wrist-mounted radio data terminals. Filled totes are then added to conveyor belts and a ‘multishuttle’ system sends them in reverse customer drop order to the centre’s 28 van loading bays. 

“It’s faster, snappier and more efficient,” said a spokesman for Dematic. “It enables Tesco to increase volumes while maintaining high service levels essential to home delivery.”

The dark store, situated a mile from the M25 and five miles away from London’s North circular, was also built at high speed. It was constructed by Gazeley, using its ‘G.Track Method’ - a system honed from years of construction experience - to deliver the 152,000 sq ft building in 20 weeks, granting Tesco access in week nine to start fitting it out. 

The new dark store is Tesco’s fourth, introduced to handle online orders.