As Nov.11 is approaching, Cainiao, a Chinese logistics firm mostly owned by Alibaba, opened the largest robotic smart warehouse in China to prepare for the upcoming huge demand.
“Consumers increasingly want faster, better delivery, so that’s what we’re doing. This year, we’re striving to reach new heights, leveraging the beauty of scale and technology,” said Ben Wang, Cainiao’s Vice President.
700 robots will load, transport and unload packages in the warehouse in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The best routes have been carefully planned so as to avoid collision and efficiently distribute parcels.
Compared to a traditional warehouse, a smart one can complete 50 percent more orders within the same time frame, according to Cainiao. The company’s goal is to deliver all packages to consumers in China within 24 hours and in 72 hours globally.
“It was only five years ago that parcel orders surpassed 100 million for the first time. Back then it took nine days to deliver the first 100 million parcels,” said Wang. “Last year, it took less than three days (2.8 days) to deliver the same number of parcels.”
Nov. 11, also known as Singles’ Day has become a mega shopping festival since it first launched in 2009. It is like the “Black Friday” of China, only bigger. 812 million delivery orders went on Cainiao during last year’s festival, with a $25 billion gross merchandise volume.
To prepare for such a huge volume, another technology Cainiao uses is the Sky Eye Program, a cloud-based video-monitoring system that will be used by logistics partners for this year’s 11.11.
Delivery firms can identify and fix abnormalities in the logistics process with this program. The Sky Eye taps the cameras in logistics stations all over China. It then upgrades information into the Internet of Things (IoT) systems using a combination of Computer Vision Technology and Cainiao’s algorithm. Human operators will be notified if anything goes wrong.
According to Deppon, one of Cainiao’s logistics partners, Sky Eye helped improve their efficiency by 15 percent during trials.
As e-commerce is growing rapidly, Alibaba is not alone in trying to include automation. Amazon founded Amazon Robotics in 2003 to “empower a smarter, faster, more consistent customer experience.”