Companies set up robotic package sorting lines
In order to deliver the more than 1 billion packages from merchants to buyers during the Singles Day shopping frenzy, the nation’s major couriers have launched auto-sorting systems to enhance their efficiency and accuracy.
As the country’s biggest shopping festival, the Singles Day event is putting great pressure on domestic express companies.
According to estimates by the China Express Association and Alibaba GroupHolding Ltd’s logistics service offshoot Cainiao, China’s fast delivery industry will have to handle 1.05 billion packages throughout the annual shopping carnival, up 35 percent year-on-year.
So it becomes critical for industry players to further raise their handling efficiency, and some major express companies are mechanizing, or auto-sorting, part of the process.
Yunda Express (Shanghai) Co Ltd has installed a set of 200-meter-long sorting lines, with more than 300 trays, in a Shanghai transit center.
“We are ready to launch a second line beforeNov 11. The facility can handle more than 20,000 packages per hour and it can operate without any break for more than 20 hours a day,” said Lai Shiqiang, operations vice-president of Yunda.
According to Lai, Yunda launched the Shanghai autosorting facility ahead of last year’s Nov 11 shopping festival, The 20 million yuan ($2.95 million) facility cuts staff number from 200 in peak days down to around 40, with the accuracy rate increasing from 95 percent to 99 percent.
The Shanghai-based company expects its orders during the Singles Day sales period will increase 50 percent from last year.
To get fully prepared year, the company this has restructured and expanded more than 10 transit centers, added 16,000 vehicles and hired 30,000 temporary staff, and introduced brand new automatic sorting equipment in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.
“Yunda will also install 300 sets of automatic collection systems at its transit centers to double the package collection speed to 2,500 packages per hour,” added Lai.
Some other big-name courier companies, such as the New York Stock Exchangelisted ZTO Express Inc, STO Express Ltd, which is waiting to list, and Shenzhen-based SF Express (Group) Co, have also installed auto-sorting facilities.
“Apart from the auto-sorting facilities in operation in the eastern China region since last year, STO added similar equipment at its eight main new transit centers, including Zhengzhou of Henan province, Panjin of Liaoning province and Wuhan of Hubei province,” said Sara Gu, marketing director of STO.
According to Gu, the autosorting will save 80 percent on manpower and raise efficiency by 75 percent.
In early 2016, STO became the nation’s first courier to launch robotic sorting in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. It launched the second trial in Tianjin in October.
Sorting lines operated by robots handle 2 and 3 times the amount of that can be done by human sorters, with error rates going down to nearly nil.
“Auto-sorting and robot sorting will be the trend, and we expect to have all of STO’s 81 major transit centers using such smart facilities soon,” added Gu.
estimated number of packages to be delivered to buyers during Singles Day festival
Workers monitor an auto-sorting line at a facility of ZTO Express Inc in Shanghai. Courier companies are gearing up for the upcoming Singles Day shopping festival.