Amazon is not alone when it comes to replacing humans with robots in sorting out packages. China’s delivery giant STO Express also has its own robot-aided sorting system at its Xuzhou sorting center where it uses numerous vacuum bot-like self-charging robots to drop individual packages into the respective chutes destined for delivery. According to the person-in-charge, the 20,000 square meter facility is capable of sorting between 18,000 and 20,000 in an hour with minimal human intervention. Thanks to this system, STO Express has saved itself 70 percent on costs over human workers who will not be able to work tirelessly 24/7 in the first place.
As you can imagine, the sight of an army of robots busy criss-crossing the sorting chute-ridden floor is quite something. In a way, it paints a rather surreal picture, but on the other hand, it can feel rather dystopia. Like, you know, we are being rule by an robotic overlord or something and its minion is swarming the Earth. The system was said to be developed in-house at cost of 8-10 million RMB (about US$1.2-1.5 million) and it was commissioned last November (in 2016) contributing to the some 30 billion packages China has delivered last year.
However impressive, the system is far from perfect. STO Express Xuzhou sorting center spokesperson pointed out that each robot can only deal with package no more than 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and only within standard package sizes and of ‘regular’ shape which means odd-shaped packages like longish parcel or wide and round packages, for examples, are off limits to this robotic busy bees. The limitation is not entirely because of the robot’s cargo area though; the chutes’ opening also plays a part in limiting the size it can swallow. Despite the limitation, the entire system is, like I said, impressive nonetheless.
Here’s the video published by People’s Daily: