It is boom time for the delivery and goods transportation industry, but automation benefits can milk more out of the boom …

To streamline operations and help customers of all sizes in its China and internal client base seize opportunities in the global market, one delivery and transportation multinational corporation has unveiled a slate of tech initiatives.

Last October in China, FedEx Express is testing an autonomous delivery vehicle in China. The firm is also testing a bot called Roxo in the AMEA region to explore the future of contactless, last-mile delivery. In addition, its teams are trialling a sensor-based logistics device designed to enhance tracking precision, reliability and timely delivery of critical shipments such as life-saving pharmaceuticals and emergency medical supplies.

Also announced is the launch in its South China E-Commerce Shipment Sorting Center in Guangzhou, of an AI-powered intelligent sorting robot. The sorting robot, developed in collaboration with robotics solution provider Dorabot, represents the firm’s latest push in digitalizing its operations and building a smart logistics network to handle the ever-growing volumes of e-commerce-related shipments in the region.

The sorting robot is already part of the daily sorting operations, and it is capable of handling small inbound and outbound packages from e-commerce customers in South China. While the robot is continually being fine-tuned based on operational requirements and application scenarios, its core function is to sort parcels based on destination to match the sorting center’s operation process.

Three major RPA features

Details of key robotic process automation features (RPA) are as follows: 

  • At approximately 40m2, the robot can carry up to 10kg of packages, covering up to 100 destinations simultaneously
  • The robot has a special drawer-shaped gripper that can connect with the conveyor belt seamlessly
  • Equipped with a barcode reader that scans package to obtain destination information, the robot uses its gripper to receive a package inward from the conveyor belt and moves it outward to the corresponding destination slot

Triggered by the challenges of the global pandemic, logistics players are optimizing operational efficiencies, from warehouse management to last-mile delivery, to cater to the soaring demand for e-commerce products, seasonal peaks, and consumers’ heightened expectations for fast delivery.

Said Robert Chu, Vice President (Operations), FedEx China: “To meet changing customer needs, we have been exploring and investing in new technologies to enhance every key aspect of transportation. The rapid rise in e-commerce has led to higher customer demand for timeliness and flexibility in logistics services, creating new challenges and opportunities for the entire logistics industry. Our collaboration with Dorabot is our latest effort to improve operational efficiencies and build an agile logistics infrastructure through robotics technology that will support the growth of China’s e-commerce industry.”

Dorabot’s founder and CEO Xiaobai Deng said the sorting robot is the starting point of a global collaboration that can “bring AI and robotics applications to more businesses and consumers.”