Alibaba's Cainiao opens new robotic warehouse to prepare for 11.11

Chinese logistics firm Cainiao Smart Logistics Network has opened a new robotic warehouse and upgraded its technology to prepare for this year’s 11.11 global shopping festival.

Located in Cainiao’s first Internet of Things (IoT) Future Park in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu province, the new warehouse includes 700 automated guided vehicles, or AGVs. The IoT technology in the warehouse can automatically direct the robots to drive, load and unload parcels.

The system is capable of planning the most efficient route for the robots to avoid collision and intelligently distribute parcels, while over 50% of orders can be fulfilled by the entire warehouse than that of a traditional one within the same time period, according to a statement.

The company claimed that it is the largest automated warehouse in China. Its publicly stated goal is to eventually deliver to anyone in China within 24 hours and internationally in 72 hours.

For cross-border deliveries, Cainiao’s network is linking 30 million square metres of warehouses worldwide and involving more than three million logistics personnel. Over 1,000 containers and 51 chartered flights are ready to speed orders across the world.

Ben Wang, Cainiao's vice president, said the logistics company needs to keep upgrading systems, anticipating growth and seeking higher efficiency, because of customer expectations.

“It was only five years ago that parcel orders surpassed 100 million for the first time. Back then it took nine days to deliver the first 100 million parcels,” said Wang.

“Last year, it took less than three days (2.8 days) to deliver the same number of parcels. Consumers increasingly want faster, better delivery, so that’s what we’re doing. This year, we’re striving to achieve a new high, leveraging the beauty of scale and technology.”

Another IoT advance this year is Cainiao’s “Sky Eye Program,” a cloud-based video-monitoring system that will be used by logistics partners Deppon, ZTO Express, YTO Express, STO Express, Best Express and Yunda Express for this year’s 11.11.

Cainiao is also helping with big data analysis for 15 major national express courier companies in preparation for 11.11. The data is used to effectively deploy manpower and transportation for 200,000 delivery stations, to maximize utilization and avoid bottlenecks, as well as managing inventories held locally.

Cainiao processed more than 812 million orders in last year's 11.11. Over a billion of orders are expected this year, said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba.  

Preparations this year also reflect the changing demands of logistics in the “New Retail” era. It will be the first time goods ordered during 11.11 are delivered directly from stores to customers during the Festival.

“Cainiao is the logistics backbone of Alibaba’s New Retail strategy,” Wang said. “We are providing an online and offline, cross-platform supply-chain solution to merchants and enabling them to cut inventory costs, while increasing operating efficiency, especially around 11.11 – the busiest season of the year. Ultimately, consumers will enjoy a brand-new shopping experience, as delivery service will always be on-demand.”