Work begins at Cainiao “smart” warehouse

Cainiao, the Alibaba logistics arm, has begun operations at the new intelligent warehouse in Huiyang, Guangdong.

In a statement issued last week, Cainiao said: “While a usual smart warehouse may contain only a few dozen mobile robots, which are also known as AGVs or automatic guided vehicles, this warehouse sees a fleet of over a hundred.”

Cainiao continued: “The WiFi-equipped, self-charging machines are responsible for moving goods in the warehouse. Activated once a shopper places an order on Alibaba’s B2C shopping site Tmall, the robot then 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.

“Slightly larger than ordinary robot vacuum cleaners, the robots can travel 1.5 meters (5 feet) per second and carry up to 600 kg (1,322 pounds).”

Cainiao said that the machines in question have sensors to prevent them from bumping into one another or any people / unforeseen object on the operations floor.

Work efficiency for Cainiao manual workers has improved by 300% since the new warehouse went into operation.

“For a traditional warehouse,” said Cainiao, “a clerk could usually sort through 1,500 products during a 7.5-hour shift — 27,924 steps are required per day to walk around the warehouse, which occupies approximately 3,000 square meters, the equivalent of 0.7 acres. Now, thanks to the mobile robots, the clerk could sift through 3,000 products in the same shift, while only taking a significantly fewer 2,563 steps a day.”

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