SF Express (顺丰速运, 002352.SZ), one of China’s biggest logistics firms, recently deployed its first-ever robot to a shopping mall in eastern China, joining a number of companies in using cutting-edge technology to optimize its last-mile delivery service.
The robot, named Fangtang, literally sugar cube, went into service at an outlet mall in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, during the Lunar New Year holiday this year.
The device can deliver up to four packages on a single errand, capable of navigating the shopping arcade while being mindful of the need for obstacle detection and avoidance. The robot can charge itself and last eight hours on a single charge.
Equipped with technologies such as autonomous driving, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), built-in sensors and cameras and a modular design, Fangtang is easy to operate via a cloud-based order management system.
After receiving the order placed by a courier, the robot picks up the package at a drop-off point and sends it to the designated merchant in the mall. The receiver then removes the item from the storage cabin of the robot by inputting a pick-up code.
What’s more, Fangtang also doubles as a guide who leads customers to the designated store through commands received on an interface.
It is reported that the robot has relieved the workload of SF Express’s couriers at a time when the delivery giant faced a usual staff shortage after many couriers headed home for family reunion.
“The deployment of SF Express’s robot in Wuxi Outlets is a digital upgrading of the package handling processes of shopping malls and supermarkets,” a regional manager responsible for SF Express’s business in Wuxi was quoted as saying in Chinese media reports. “It’s also the first-ever delivery robot dispatched by SF Express to a mall or a supermarket.”
“Currently, system software is being constantly iterated,” the manager added.
In a company statement, SF Express said smart delivery robots will become even more automated, informatized, interconnected and intelligent going forward.
It’s unclear if SF Express will expand its fleet of robotic couriers to enhance operational efficiency, but competition is already heating up in China’s indoor delivery market teeming with players such as Keenon (擎朗智能), Pudu (普渡机器人), Yunji Technology (云迹科技) and Orion Star (猎户星空).