Belgian warehouse in Liege
Alibaba will open five new warehouses, including one in Liege. The Chinese retail group will use its subsidiary Cainiao to expand its logistical network and technology.
(Author : Pauline Neerman)
Worldwide shipments within 72 hours
Alibaba owns more than 50 % in Cainiao, a logistical company, and the latter organized a Global Smart Logistic Summit today, where it revealed new technologies for smart logistics. The summit was also the location where the group unveiled its plans to expand its global network with another five hubs: Dubai, Hangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, Liege and Moscow.
These five cities are only the first wave of the Chinese retail group’s expansion plans, it said. More locations will most likely soon follow and the ultimate goal is to ship anywhere in the world within 72 hours.
Thousand cities within three years
Cainiao currently ships to thirties cities overseas across six countries and regions, all within a five-day timeframe, it said. The new hubs should allow it to go even faster and to also improve its quality. Target: to ship to 1,000 cities in three years’ time. The new technologies and programs it demonstrated at the summit have to “facilitate trade in China and across the world; improve retailers’ and consumers’ services thanks to a fully integrated online and offline experience”, the logistical specialist said.
This also illustrates its shared belief (with Alibaba) of New Retail: a technology-driven omnichannel business model that the retail giant claims will be the future of retail. The group subsequently dubbed it “New Logistics”.
Smart warehouse with 500 self-driving robots
Cainiao displayed her “Future Park” for the first time: a logistical trial location in Wuxi where it housed a smart warehouse, offices and stores. The Chinese use it to experiment with artificial intelligence, innovative computer technology and Long Range-Internet of Things applications. This will allow internet-connected devices to send signals across vast distances. The smart warehouse has fully automated assembly lines, robot arms, more than 500 self-driving robots that process orders themselves and infra-red sensors that can keep track of stock levels. Cameras also check the loading capacity in real-time.
The company also talked about solutions it is still developing, including how to minimize waste and the Cainiao Box for the last-mile deliveries. This will accept packages when no one is home and can regulate temperatures remotely, so that food can also be stored in this smart letterbox. The company also wants to commercialize a fully autonomous delivery robot later this year.