Design Engineering
Showcase 2021

Ocado Technology

Tags
Mechatronics
Rapid Prototyping
User Experience Design
Automotive

Project Details

Student
Patrick Gonda
Team
Advanced Technology - Autonomous Mobility
Role
Technology Intern
Sector
Retail and Consumer Goods
Links
LinkedIn
Portfolio

I completed my Industrial Placement at the Autonomous Mobility department at Ocado Technology. Ocado Technology builds, maintains and upgrades the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), an end-to-end ecommerce, fulfilment, and logistics platform which is licensed to grocery retailers all over the world.

The Autonomous Mobility team is working in collaboration with Oxbotica, a company developing autonomous driving software. The department focuses on assessing the opportunities of this technology for OSP and developing commercially competitive implementations. As a Design Engineer I focused on physical design and building prototypes which will be used to guide further development.

Ocado Technology
First autonomous vehicle trialed by Ocado
A mockup autonomous vehicle from Oxbotica

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

Defining goals

The Autonomous Mobility project is a very large project, spanning multiple engineering disciplines and potentially affecting a large number of stakeholders. By defining a clear objective development can be made lean and to focus on important issues. In my part of the project this was how the solution would interact with users, and how costly it would be to implement.

Research

After defining the goals of a project, it is important to identify the problem space as best as possible. Research was done using information found online, internal documentation or through contacting separate companies. Working on a project in a professional environment it is important that the information gathered is well documented and indexed, to allow new projects to be built off of them in the future by myself or another person at Ocado Technology.

Ideation

Once a set of goals is set, the best solution that can be achieved with the resources available must be identified.

This was done through sketches and “CAD toy models” which are models which demonstrate mechanisms but have no concern for manufacturability. This allowed me to quickly assess ideas by myself, as well as to be able to show the ideas to peers for review and to receive feedback.

CAD Modelling

All the CAD at Autonomous Mobility was completed using Onshape, an online CAD platform which facilitates collaborative design as designs are stored on the cloud. I had to design prototypes from components we had available at the workshop, and also accurately estimate how much detail I needed to create in the CAD to be able to start building.

Manufacturing

As my third year of university was fully online, this placement was a great opportunity to catch up on manufacturing experience. I had access to standard workshop equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers, in addition to an extensive metalworking workshop. This had a manual and CNC mill, multiple lathes and a waterjet cutter. I had the opportunity to use all of these machines, and be able to learn from experts on how to best leverage these technologies and use them in my projects.

I had to learn the tolerances of each manufacturing method and 3D printer we had available, and select the most appropriate method of manufacture for each part, balancing work hours, machine hours, precision and accuracy.

Trials and Evaluation

After building several prototypes we had to assess their suitability based on the goals set at the beginning of the process. After individually testing if the mechanisms built operate as intended, a user-centric trial was designed and executed. This was a simulated environment where stakeholders would interact with the mechanism, this was recorded on video and their feedback was noted down. I proposed and co-developed a feedback form that was used to formalise and store the feedback, enabling quick documentation and ease of data access.

An element I designed in CAD
The same element but built and assembled

Role and Contributions

Mechanical knowledge

I have a keen interest in mechatronics, which I leveraged to get up to speed very fast within the project. I have a lot of experience in different manufacturing methods which enabled me to realistically validate and effectively embody designs.

I have the ability to think physically, which enabled me to create a large amount of different designs quickly. This combined with the iterative design skills developed through design engineering allows me to quickly identify optimal solutions.

User focused design

I brought to Ocado Technology a key concern of Stakeholder focused design and methods of effectively gathering user opinions. I reinforced the importance of giving users options, and aided with defining the balance between cost and usability.

I also co-led a talk about futures research and design to the department, which provided the team with a set of methods which can help aid with user focused design for a theoretical future.

Multidisciplinary work

As a design engineer I had to fill in many roles during my university projects, this was highly beneficial during my placement as I could effectively understand the progress happening in most of the sub-streams at Autonomous Mobility. This enabled me to dynamically move between projects as needed, allowing the team to always work effectively and keep on track during teammates' annual leave.

A graph highlighting my improvement over the placement

Summary

Overall working at Ocado Technology was an amazing opportunity to be a part of a passionate multidisciplinary team and allowed me to learn how to work in a professional environment. The work I completed was fulfilling, interesting and exactly what Designing Engineering is all about.

Ocado offers a very wide area of opportunities; so if robotics, software, mechatronics or any blend of the three sounds interesting to you, Ocado Technology would be a great place to get real industrial experience.