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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Business
Deliverymen face robot revolution as demand soars
    2017-December-21  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

AT the sprawling Renmin University of China in Beijing, two shiny new couriers dart through throngs of students to deliver parcels throughout the day.

But they’re not typical Chinese deliverymen. Amazon has staffed warehouses with thousands of robots since 2014, helping cut operating costs and delivery times.

However, Chinese industry executives say they are leapfrogging Amazon as they make use of and develop these technologies at a faster pace, with many investing proceeds from stock market listings last year.

“The adoption rate among Chinese firms is extremely fast. The economy develops so fast, so everyone’s rushing to compete, to keep up,” said Johnny Chou, chairman and founder of BEST.

The experiments taking place across China are wide-ranging.

BEST, and Kaola, an e-commerce unit of video games publisher NetEase Inc., are using robots that can shift goods weighing up to 1 ton across warehouse floors to help human packers.

Online retailers Alibaba, JD.com and S.F. Express are investing in drone programs they hope will one day perform so-called last-mile deliveries, especially in rural areas.

Others, like ZTO Express, have rolled out automated sorting lines that can self-scan and tip parcels into bags earmarked for different destinations lined up on either side of the belt.

ZTO’S chief financial officer James Guo said automated lines, which cost about 4 million yuan (US$602,419) apiece, can sort up to 25,000 parcels an hour with 40 workers, versus a manually-operated line that can sort 4,000 parcels with 120 workers. ZTO has 44 of these automated lines.

“By saving the annual salaries of 70-80 workers, I can easily earn back my investment from one line,” Guo said.

Other executives said wages in the industry, which has about 3 million workers, were rising by double-digit percentages annually, outpacing China’s economic growth.

The shift is rippling down through the broader industry, logistics suppliers say, driving orders for and research into new technologies and placing new demands on warehouse landlords.

At one end of the chain are robotics and technology firms such as Qingdao Kengic Automation Equipment Co. and Hikvision, which say they are partnering with logistics companies to develop new systems.

“We achieved 100-percent (revenue) growth last year,” said Xu Ke, deputy general manager of Kengic, a unit of rubber machinery maker Mesnac Co., which said its automated sorting belts are used by JD.com and online discount retailer Vipshop Holdings.

That kind of growth, he said, is attracting over a hundred new competitors into a sector that only five years ago had just a few dozen firms. “The price competition is becoming extremely harsh as everyone tries to grab market share.”

Warehouse owner Global Logistics Properties said customers who want to install robotics were asking for larger floorplates, reliable power supply and higher ceilings.

Industry executives confidently predict more parts of the supply chain will see machines replace human workers.

“We may not even need 10 years to achieve completely unmanned warehouses and unmanned distribution,” said BEST’s Chou. “Developments are happening just too quickly.”(SD-Agencies)

 

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