Major Chinese online retailers are beefing up efforts to build intelligent logistics systems, by deploying robots in warehouses to enhance work efficiency, in preparation for the upcoming Singles Day shopping spree.
Cainiao Network Technology Co Ltd, the smart logistics network of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, announced on Tuesday it had launched a flagship intelligent warehouse in Huiyang, Guangdong province, containing a fleet of more than a hundred mobile robots.
The robots are responsible for moving goods in the warehouse. They are activated once a shopper places an order on Alibaba's B2C shopping site Tmall, and the robot sends the shelf containing the parcel to a warehouse clerk, who will sort through the parcels and later ship the designated order to the customer.
Cainiao said it would launch such warehouses in Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Hubei before Nov 11.
In a traditional warehouse, a clerk could usually sort through about 1,000 products, and 60,000 to 70,000 steps are required per day to walk around the warehouse. Now, thanks to the mobile robots, the clerk could sift through 3,000 products in the same shift, while only taking 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day.
Cainiao is not the only case. JD.com Inc, China's second-biggest e-commerce player announced last week it had completed the construction of its first unmanned warehouse.
Located at JD's logistic center in Jiading district, Shanghai, the warehouse covers a combined floor space of 40,000 square meters. JD said all operations in the warehouse are fully automatic, including receiving goods, storage, packaging and sorting. The warehouse's handling capacity is expected to exceed 200,000 orders per day.
In August, JD launched the first unmanned sorting center in Kunshan, Jiangsu province. The whole process, from parcel sorting to loading onto trucks, is fully automatic in the Kunshan center, JD said.
"As e-commerce is growing in China and around the world, robotics and automation will be a necessary solution to meet that explosion in demand," said Wang Zhenhui, CEO of JD Logistics.
"We are investing in this advanced technology, and other automation throughout our supply chain, with an eye on the long term."
Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd also said it would launch intelligent retail robots that could autonomously recognize the speech and expressions of consumers during the shopping festival on Nov 11.
Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy, said e-commerce giants are gearing up for the upcoming Singles Day shopping festival by investing heavily in the intelligent logistics sector, such as unmanned sorting and handling equipment, and use robots in warehouses and delivery.