Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao Network, has unveiled a ‘smart’ system to manage warehouse complexes at scale, during its annual Global Smart Logistics Summit in Hangzhou on Thursday.
Dubbed “Cainiao Future Park,” the company aims to digitize its sites through Internet of Things (IoT) applications, big data, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI).
A 160,000 sq m complex in Wuxi, an eastern Chinese city near Shanghai, is set to become the first stop for Cainiao’s Future Park roll-out. Advanced technologies will help assess warehouse storage capacities and the height of inventory stacking in real time, as well as guide traffic within the park, such as pointing vehicles towards available parking spaces.
Building on their work in smart logistics robots, Cainiao also said they’ve developed an automated warehouse solution that is easy to deploy and scale. Parcels are processed on fully automated assembly lines, equipped with robotic arms and more than 500 automatic guided vehicles man the floor, picking packages off carts and delivering them by the most efficient route to warehouse clerks for sorting and distribution. The self-charging AGV robots are expected to reduce staff walking by an average 50,000 steps per working day, improving personnel efficiency by 30%, Alibaba said.
As for IoT, Cainiao’s logistics IoT technology is set to expand beyond warehouses. Besides announcing that its upgraded last-mile robot, G Plus, will be put into commercial production by the end of the year, the company debuted the Cainiao Box, a smart locker that consumers can install outside their door for packages and food deliveries. It authorises couriers to leave packages via facial recognition while also serving as a temporary mini-fridge. The temperature of the smart box can be adjusted through a mobile app to keep food and beverages warm or cold.
Separately, Cainiao said it would focus five cities into “global hubs” for its platform: Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Liège, Moscow and the home city of Alibaba, Hangzhou. The plan is to help them enhance cross-border logistics infrastructure to improve the consumer experience, with an ultimate goal of boosting the speed and quality of service in 100 cities within three years. Cainiao did not reveal more details on their global hub expansion plan, but said they would be announced at a later stage.
Cainiao also said that by 2020, it would deploy new energy vehicles to 100 cities in China and apply AI algorithms to drive smart routing in 40,000 villages and shorten the average length of delivery journeys by 30% in rural areas. It pledged to expand its e-shipping labels, which replaces traditional paper labels, to 40bn parcels, a move which is estimated to save over 1bn pieces of paper, the equivalent of more than 3m trees.
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