Whale of a time with in­tel­li­gent store­houses

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK BUSINESS -

Fully au­to­matic ware­houses are fast be­com­ing the order of the day as online com­merce makes its mark on the Chi­nese main­land. An in­tel­li­gent goods stor­age and man­age­ment sys­tem has be­come a big as­set for e-com­merce re­tail­ers who have been fight­ing to rein in soar­ing stor­age and la­bor costs.

With the rapid ad­vent of online shop­ping on the Chi­nese main­land, e-com­merce re­tail­ers, while rel­ish­ing the fruits of their new-found trade, are equally bog ged down with how to con­front soar­ing pro­duc­tion stor­age and order pick­ing costs.

An in­tel­li­gent ware­house provider in Shen­zhen has risen to the oc­ca­sion, of­fer­ing a so­lu­tion that can sub­stan­tially cut costs for both ware­house la­bor and space.

Cer­tain large re­tail­ers like the main­land’s JD.com and Ama­zon in the United States have equipped their ware­houses with AGV (au­to­matic guided ve­hi­cle) ro­bots to move shelves to a fixed point so that work­ers don’t need to traipse around.

But these ware­houses solely fo­cus on “au­to­matic” so la­bor ef­fi­ciency could be im­proved, says Li Linzi, founder and c h i e f e x e c u t i v e o ff i c e r o f Shen­zhen Whale­house Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd.

“Our ware­house stands out for high uti­liza­tion of stor­age space and it can also move au­to­mat­i­cally.”

In­stead of us­ing plenty of tur tle-like ro­bots to move shelves around, the shelves in Li’s ware­house ro­tate au­to­mat­i­cally in a cir­cle of two rows, pow­ered by a pusher at the end of each row.

At the other end of each row is a gate. When a shelf ro­tates to the gate, it stops for work­ers to pick up prod­ucts that have been or­dered in dif­fer­ent boxes on the shelf.

Li ex­plains there’s no need to leave any space be­tween the shelves for them to move or for work­ers to walk, so the ware­house’s space can be fully uti­lized.

One of his three ware­houses in Shen­zhen mea­sures about 3,000 square me­ters and can ac­com­mo­date 70 work­ers. It equals to an area of 15,000 square me­ters with 150 work­ers to deal with the same amount of or­ders in the tra­di­tional way.

But, if man­aged by the tra­di­tional order-pick­ing process, the au­to­matic sys­tem can’ t give its ef­fi­ciency full play. So, the startup has de­vel­oped an op­er­at­ing soft­ware sys­tem that’s com­pletely op­po­site to the main­stream con­cept.

Tra­di­tion­ally, when an order is made, the e-re­tailer’s work­ers will search the ware­house to find the prod­uct ac­cord­ing to the order.

But, at Whale­house, when one shelf ro­tates to the gate, the sys­tem will find which prod­uct on the shelf is or­dered, based on the unique code on each box and shelf, and send in­struc­tions to work­ers to pick it up.

Thanks to a self-de­vel­oped al­go­rithm, the sys­tem can split a large amount of or­ders into small groups to pre­pare all the or­ders as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Li ad­mits the sys­tem doesn’t strictly com­ply with the prin­ci­ple of “first come, first served”, but the time it needs is rather short. In ad­di­tion, it’s di­rectly linked to the e-shop plat­form so the order in­for­ma­tion can be im­me­di­ately and au­to­mat­i­cally trans­ferred to the Whale­house sys­tem.

“The soft­ware sys­tem shows a change from ‘order finds prod­uct’ to ‘prod­uct finds o r d e r ’,” h e s ay s . “A n d , t h e ro­tat­ing func­tion is a phys­i­cal change from ‘peo­ple go to prod­uct’ to ‘prod­uct comes to peo­ple.’ ”

He be­lieves the two changes in soft­ware and hard­ware are the keys of the patented and dig­i­tal­ized ware­house man­age­ment sys­tem.

Since the launch­ing of the new prod­uct, the com­pany has earned the trust of half of the top 10 cross-boundar y e-com­merce traders in Shen­zhen, he says.

It also adopts a co-shar­ing model, al­low­ing clients to rent the place by day and prod­uct vol­ume. “It’s very con­ve­nient for re­tail­ers be­cause they can spend ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous de­mands dur­ing the peak or off-sea­son pe­ri­ods and avoid wast­ing as much as pos­si­ble.”

The 34-year-old en­tre­pre­neur joined the lo­gis­tics unit of an online jewelry com­pany in Shen­zhen in 2008. Four years later, he founded the startup to op­er­ate ware­houses for re­tail­ers. But, he did not be­gin fo­cus­ing on au­to­matic and in­tel­li­gent ware­houses un­til 2013 be­cause of his firm be­lief that they’re the fu­ture of the lo­gis­tics stor­age in­dus­try.

Li is con­fi­dent that in­tel­li­gent ware­houses will be­come pop­u­lar in three years, and he plans to open more such fa­cil­i­ties in the eastern and north­ern re­gions of the coun­try, as well as in the United States, in the sec­ond half of this year.

In­vest­ments in au­to­matic sys­tems and equip­ment re­lat­ing to the warehousing busi­ness had surged from 2.5 bil­lion yuan in 2007 to 45.3 bil­lion yuan in 2015, ac­cord­ing to Shen­zhen-based con­sul­tancy firm CICon­sult­ing.

He Lim­ing, chair­man of the China Fed­er­a­tion of Lo­gis­tics and Pur­chas­ing, told the 2017 Global Smart Lo­gis­tics S u m m i t i n Ha n g z h o u i n May that the en­tire lo­gis­tics in­dus­try, driven by grow­ing e-com­merce con­sump­tion, is go­ing through an in­tel­li­gent up­grad­ing.

De­vel­op­ing a fully au­to­matic ware­house sys­tem can dras­ti­cally en­hance stor­age and man­age­ment ef­fi­ciency, He said.

Our ware­house stands out for high uti­liza­tion of stor­age space and it can also move au­to­mat­i­cally.”

Li Linzi,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.