Active Ants to open first automated UK e-commerce fulfilment hub

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E-commerce fulfilment specialist Active Ants, a subsidiary of bpost, is set to open its first UK facility in Northampton this autumn.

Scheduled to open on September 5, it will be the fifth fulfilment center in the Active Ants network, complementing operations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Active Ants was founded in 2010 with the idea of making e-fulfilment more accurate and efficient through innovation, automation and working with robots. Active Ants has since grown into one of the larger players in the Netherlands with more than 250 customers processing five million orders each year.

Jeroen Dekker, co-founder and managing partner, Active Ants, said, “Active Ants wants to be the best fulfilment company in Europe. We are delighted that our arrival in the UK will further increase our presence in Europe and we believe we are moving into one of the most exciting online markets. With our strong focus on innovation and automation we offer tailor-made business-to-consumer (B2C) logistics for SME webshops. We are convinced that this will create superior value for our customers.”

Owned by investment company M&G Real Estate, the property will be located on Northampton’s Brackmills Industrial Estate, a strategic location for e-commerce logistics in the UK.

Dekker added, “This combination makes it the perfect location for our e-fulfilment activities. We will be close to our customers and have good connections with last-mile distributors. In our search for the right location and the right building, it was important for us to find a building that fulfilled our mission and values. The ‘outstanding’ BREEAM certification of the Brackmills Estate means that the building performs at the highest environmental level, which fits perfectly with our sustainable and highly automated way of working.”

Autostore technology will form the basis of the new warehouse, with automated robots traveling along a network of rails to store and retrieve goods from a collection of compact bins. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) bring empty boxes to employees who then fill them with goods delivered by the storage robots. Thanks to its compact design, the system is capable of storing up to six times more stock per square meter.

Packing machines then select the ideal size boxes and close them to size – weighing them and providing a shipping label, so that no padding material is needed. As a result, Active Ants transports on average 40% less air to the customer. Once filled, closed and printed, the carrier robots pick up the parcels and sort them according to their respective carriers.

The specially developed box closing machines also use a built-in printer. “This allows every customer to get their own custom printed box,” said Dekker. “Through this unique functionality, we enable large, but now also smaller webshops, to offer customized packaging. Keeping pre-printed boxes in stock is no longer necessary. This saves our customers costs and also reduces their footprint.”

Autostore tech at the e-fulfilment center in Willebroek, Belgium

AMRs in Roosendaal, Netherlands

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Dan originally joined Parcel and Postal Technology International in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest technological developments, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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