Skip to main content

Smarter Distribution Centres (DCs) Challenge

smart distribution centres challenge

Smart Distribution Centres (DCs) - Shape Up to Ship Out

THE CHALLENGE: Create a technological solution for picking and packing stock that will help us transform our DCs to increase efficiency and meet the ever-increasing demand.

At the Global level, we are currently faced with the energy crisis and need to find sustainable energy sources, and ways to increase the efficiency of how we operate. Increased digital shopping means, more products are shipped out each day from various parts of the world and it is more critical than ever that every task is carried out with the most efficient process yet with the highest level of accuracy.

It’s no surprise that global distribution centers are becoming more reliant on technology to efficiently meet their customers’ needs. More and more we see the move away from needing a large workforce, to using technology instead.

RS is no stranger to technology, but to be truly cutting edge we need to take a holistic view of our current DC setup and look at ways to embrace technology.

It throws up the all-important challenge – Can technology help us keep up with our customer's demands and expectations by being quicker to pick, pack and despatch our stock, following an order being placed?


The technology that we use to locate stock from storage and get it into the hands of employees to make up the order for despatch, is currently 20-30 years old. Surprising, I know!

Cutting-edge at the time, it requires a high employee headcount. Significant time is spent with the physical tasks of transferring the stock to the employee, or the employee walking to the stock location to pick an item, then putting it in a ‘shopping basket’ before sending it to be packed and despatched.

This makes it a very slow, time-consuming process – and now outdated.

In an ideal world…

We would have a system that pushed the stock to the DC employee! This would save time and increase efficiency. Not only that, but it would also help to reduce errors so that the correct item was delivered every time.

Packing customers’ orders would be automated - without involvement from employees. Depending on the weight and size of the item the correct box would then be provided on demand.


Applications are Now Closed!!

Please refer to the overview for full competition information. 

Entry Criteria

  • Teams of 3 to 5 people
  • All team members aged 18-30 at the time of entry
  • All team members registered with DesignSpark
  • All entries must be in English (be able to communicate in English)
  • A passion for sustainability!

Searching for our #RSINNOVATORS

We are looking for 20 teams to take through to the next phase of the competition, where we will support you with a program of mentoring and masterclasses to turn your ideas into innovations!

smart dc timeline


25 October - Event: Turn your ideas into Innovations! / Competition open for entries 

30 November – Submission Deadline, get your entries in!

December – A shortlist of teams will be invited to submit a video

January – 20 finalist teams announced

February & March – 6-week masterclass and mentoring program to equip your team with the skills and knowledge needed to turn your idea into a reality (teams will need to commit to 1 masterclass, and 1 mentoring session a week)

27th to 31st March – The virtual final, pitch the solution your team has been working on to a panel of judges, and be in with the chance of winning our £5000 grand prize!


In case you missed it...

1st Place - £10,000 GBP!

2nd Place - £5,000 GBP!

3rd Place - £3,000 GBP!

  • A total of 3 teams will be crowned ultimate champions! That's 3 chances of winning! 
  • An opportunity to further develop your solutions further through an amazing accelerator program
RS Grass Roots is the Education & Community Impact team at RS. Grass Roots champions young engineers with exciting opportunities to nurture the next generation of outstanding innovators! Industry now demands graduate engineers with not only the knowledge but crucially the skills and practical experience to solve real problems and create new designs. Whether you are an academic working to enhance the educational experience or a student tackling your latest project - RS is here to help.