Tech

How it works: Catch.com.au’s distribution warehouse

Yesterday I flew down to Melbourne and was given the chance to tour through the catch.com.au warehouse.  Sounds pretty basic right? In fact, since posting a couple of teasers of my trip I’ve seen a few comments from people essentially not realising how big Catch really is.

Things like “I thought Catch was a gimmick website… never really took it seriously”.  Well – let me tell you.  It’s serious.

When I walked into the building, just seemed like one of those office/warehouse facilities. We signed in, walked up some stairs, there’s a few offices. Had a drink of water in the staff break room and there’s your first slice of perspective. The break room/kitchen was enormous. Probably twenty tables around ready for folks to sit at for their lunch.

There’s 400 staff at Catch.com.au, 250 of them at the warehouse.

What started when Gabby Leibovich & Hezi Leibovich decided to sell a “daily deal” via email and ship the items from their garage has grown into a multi-million dollar business – and the warehouse is the best demonstration of that you’ll see.

It’s bloody enormous. Like – the MCG with a roof:

There’s a mixture of robotics and manual labor that makes it all happen, but at its heart it’s a high-tech warehouse where every item is tracked, stored, packed and dispatched with precision.

One half of the space is dedicated to receiving and storage.  Trucks come in, unload pallets and pallets of gear from shoes, to finish dishwasher tablets, to Dyson’s and gadgets galore.

They are stored in the warehouse and are moved as required into the packing side of the warehouse.

Here, people ride up high on forklifts to pick stock, or walk the isles of shelves to find the item you’ve bought.  And it gets put into a plastic bucket that is your complete order – one item or many – circling the conveyer belt system until it’s a complete order.

In one part of the warehouse a strange set of walls come around what turns out to be a $20 million robot.  Inside the walls are 7,000-20,000 items stored in crates.  When ordered, a robot rides along the rails above the storage, reaches in and grabs the crate of goods.  It gets sent down to a manual packer who has a computer screen telling them how many to take out and which customer basket to place it in.

The crate then returns to the system to be re-loaded by a robot into its position.  There’s a full time job here just in servicing the robots.

Whatever the method, your items are loaded into a bucket, each bucket is an individual customer order.

They travel the conveyer belts to one of two boxing areas.  There’s large boxes, and small.  If your item requires a large box, it heads to that area, where a team pack it in.

Robots then add sealed air packaging to keep the goods safe, and a robot then reaches into the box, works out how high the package needs to be when folded down – and the box corners are cut, bent and sealed.  Amazing.

But wait – there’s more.  At the CartonWrap1000 – a machine deserving of a role in the next Captain Underpants book – large rolls of cardboard are cut, folded and glued together on the fly as smaller packages enter the machine.

Quite literally boxes are created and sealed before your very eyes for each individual order.  It’s amazing.

I’ve never seen anything like it – and I don’t think I’ve seen anything more impressive either.

Each day, two, maybe three or four B-Double trucks from Australia Post are loaded and taken away with thousands of orders.

This ain’t no backyard mob.  This is serious stuff, they’ve pretty much outgrown this warehouse in four years.

So, if you’re wondering how Catch.com.au get your orders to you – that’s how!

Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.

He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.

Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.

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How it works: Catch.com.au’s distribution warehouse
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