JD.com opens unmanned sorting center in China to boost e-commerce automation

China’s second-largest e-commerce company, JD.com, continues to take enthusiastic steps to automate and streamline e-commerce logistics, most recently by opening an “unmanned” parcel sorting center in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, according to a media report on the company’s investor page.

This move, following the e-tailer’s recently announced alliance with China’s Inspection and Quarantine Association to expedite customs clearance for imports into China, suggests an ongoing effort from JD.com to utilize “smart” logistics developments to compete for market share with Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba.

The Kunshan sorting center is completely automated – from parcel selection and sorting to loading and unloading trucks, using automated, guided vehicles, ChinaDaily reported. Current sorting capacity is as high as 9,000 parcels per hour, and could be increased by four times that rate, the article stated.

Implementing automated systems via artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithms and robots “greatly improves operation efficiency,” JD Logistics’ head of research and development Cheng Yan told Air Cargo World. “Our robots can pick at five to six times the speed of manual picking, reaching as many as 3,600 picks per hour.” JD.com’s automated guided vehicles also increase efficiency as they “automatically figure out when more efficient routes are available, and map them out on their own.”

Another recently announced partnership between JD.com and Japanese logistics company Yamato Holdings to build a cold-chain logistics network in China is also expected to advance JD.com’s A.I. innovation goals. The two companies plan to develop technology jointly for unmanned warehouses, automated vehicles, A.I. and other big-data technologies, according to JD.com.

Join our panel on, “Logistics Innovation for E-Commerce” to learn more about technologies to facilitate e-commerce logistics at Air Cargo World’s ELEVATE Conference in Miami, Oct. 2. Click here for registration information.

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Caryn Livingston

Caryn Livingston is Editor of the monthly magazine Air Cargo World and Deputy Editor of the company’s monthly newsletter, Cargo Facts, and its weekly e-mail publication Cargo Facts Update. Prior to joining Cargo Facts in 2017, Caryn worked as a journalist in Houston covering the oil and gas industry. She holds a BA in English from the University of Tulsa and an MA in Literature from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.