NANJING, China – In December 2019, the first case of coronavirus was discovered. The outbreak has affected many industries, especially the logistics industry. However, the challenges and opportunities coexist; smart manufacturing and unmanned distribution have shown strong growth potential.
During the epidemic, logistics and distribution grew sharply under the catalysis of “self-isolation policy”. According to the large-scale epidemic prevention consumption data released by Suning, in China the order volume of Suning‘s Convenience Stores increased by 419.6% year-on-year, and the order volume of “order online and pick up at the store” in Suning‘s Food Market, surged by more than 655%.
During the epidemic, each residential property carried out a certain degree of “blockade”, the traditional “contactless distribution” cannot satisfy the current situation. The advantages of unmanned technology are prominent, which can improve the transfer efficiency between logistics warehouses and consumers. Therefore, unmanned logistics may accelerate its development after the epidemic.
Unmanned logistics, describes its operating process as the packages departs from the unmanned warehouse, quickly transported to the distribution center through an unmanned ground truck, then in the last mile passed to destination by unmanned delivery trolley or drone.
At present, the intelligent equipment and robots of Suning’s unmanned warehouse are under the dispatch of the independently developed intelligent warehouse control system named “Compass”, realizing the goods from merchandise, storage, replenishment, picking, packaging and labeling to final sorting, and the entire process is unmanned and efficient.
In Suning‘s unmanned warehouse, unmanned forklifts can use the visual navigation technology to accurately load the goods, then the AGV robot transports the goods to the robot arm picking area through intelligent path planning, autonomous navigation and automatic obstacle avoidance. The robot arm puts the goods “gently” on the conveyor belt through an automatic destacker system, and after automatic packaging and automatic labeling, the goods are well-sorted out of the warehouse. The whole process takes only 20 minutes. Statistics show that the product picking efficiency can reach 600 pieces/hour, the product can be completed as soon as 20 minutes, and the cost of single product picking can be reduced by 52%.
As early as 2018, Suning Logistics completed the actual measurement of its unmanned ground truck “Xinglong One”. Technically, “Xinglong-1” uses advanced artificial intelligence technology, assisting radar, high-precision maps, cameras and sensors, and can accurately identify obstacles up to 300 meters away in high-speed scenarios. In addition, it can also control the vehicle for emergency stops or bypass obstacles with a response speed of 25ms, and the fastest speed of automatic safe driving can reach 80km/h.
Suning has also begun to test drone logistics. In June 2017, Suning completed the first live delivery in Anji, Zhejiang Province, which was the first attempt for Suning‘s drone development. In December 2017, Suning drone entered normal operation and established three drone delivery routes in Lingbi County, Huaiyuan County, and Jinzhai County, in Anhui Province. On December 10, 2017, the first delivery drone developed by Suning Logistics completed the first unmanned delivery of normal operation in Lingbi County, Anhui Province, within 14 minutes.
During the epidemic, Suning Logistics launched the “contactless distribution service” with 5G unmanned vehicles. In collaboration with Suning Convenience Store, Suning Logistics quickly set up an unmanned delivery team guarantee around the 3 km instant delivery service, further reducing the risk of infection between the consumer and the courier, efficiently realizing the “self-isolation policy”.
In addition, BIU is Suning’s new unmanned delivery robot. When the courier puts the goods in its cargo box and enters the shipping instruction, BIU can independently plan the route and avoid obstacles, delivered to consumers and returned to charge. The cooperation mode of “courier delivery + robot delivery to the community” opens up the last 100 meters of community distribution during the epidemic, ensuring the safety and health of users and a high-quality home service experience.
Suning Retail Technology Research Institute believes that in the short term, it is difficult for the logistics industry to fully launch “unmanned”, but the demand for “unmanned” distribution has increased significantly, and consumer acceptance of this type of service has greatly increased. At the same time, as the scope of 5G applications continues to expand, it will allow more data to be intelligently and prospectively implanted in the mass terminals of logistics operations, enabling them to understand and act independently. The artificial intelligence model promotes the transition from “information data link” to “AI data link”. Therefore, this may be the inflection point that brings the explosion of unmanned technology.