The rapidly growing e-commerce sector is all set to replace human efforts with robots, At courier firm DTDC's Delhi hub, a 25-arm monster sorts packages in lightning speed: 3,600 items an hour, or one in every second.
The robotic sorter is one of the highlights of eight automated hubs DTDC, setting up in the country for Rs 50 crore over the next year and half, said executive director Abhishek Chakraborty.
The DTDC initiative is an example of machines increasingly replacing humans at logistics operations as they try to keep up with demand from the fastgrowing ecommerce segment.
"By utilising automation and robotics, we expect to reduce time by replacing manually intensive tasks, and respond quickly to the new and emerging demands, in most cases even anticipating them," said Sanjeev Mehta, vice president and head of product and design for eKart, Flipkart's dedicated logistics partner.
The company is using automation in select centres to pick and move packages and will extend this to other facilities, Mehta said. It will also use new technologies like sorters and profilers to better handle packages as per specific orders. Mehta didn't give details on investment or the number of systems Flipkart is setting up. Amazon India is meanwhile planning to set up its first automated sortation system at one of its 11 facilities, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Amazon denied comment.
The company has installed 12 automated sortation systems for Flipkart, Gojavas, Aramex, Delhivery and DTDC since 2009. It is in talks with one of these companies to sell "Butler", a smart automated guided vehicle robot to help in picking products fast and putting them into packages, said Vadera, without elaborating.
One of its first customers was Flipkart, for which it designed an automated sortation system at a fifth of the price that was being charged by an overseas company, he said.
HOW IT WORKS
DTDC's Delhi hub, a parcel takes half an hour before it's ready for delivery, down from two hours when it used to be done manually.
GreyOrange is now in talks to sell a sorter which can do 7,200 packages an hour, Vadera said.
The company has developed algorhithm systems in house for the specified picking, said founder Saptarshi Nath. It has also developed software by which the original retailer or manufacturer can constantly track the product before it is finally sold to a customer. Anil Khanna, MD at Blue Dart, said it has implemented systems like weight dimension labeling.