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Robotic in supply chain amid the COVID - 19 pandemic

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%.

In this time, 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%.

During the epidemic, Suning Logistics launched the “contactless distribution service” with 5G unmanned vehicles. In collaboration with Convenience Stores, 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.

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