Manufacturing News

AI powering huge changes in logistics

Dorabot sees growing demand for its robotic solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic

At a logistics service center in Seoul, an industrial robotics arm is leveraging artificial intelligence to quickly sort documents and small parcels into separate delivery bins. It is capable of sorting over 1,000 small parcels per hour, increasing efficiency by 41 percent.

The robotic arm flyer sorter was developed by Dorabot Inc, an international AI-powered robotic solutions provider for logistics, express delivery, smart manufacturing, retailing and other industries. Deployed at the Gangbuk Service Center of international service provider DHL Express, the robot now processes the largest number of small parcels within the company's network in South Korea after officially starting operations on July 20.

While minimizing human interaction, which is crucial these days for employee safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the robotic flyer sorter is also expected to sort packages into corresponding destinations with over 99 percent accuracy, Dorabot said.

DHL Express Korea said it is handling record high shipment volume due to the current e-commerce boom, and robotics will ease its staff's work burden as well as improve productivity.

DHL deployed its first AI-powered robotics arm for sortation at one of its service centers based in Miami, Florida, in June 2020, where courier pickup and delivery stops increased by about 30 percent from the figure before COVID-19 due to pandemic-related express delivery growth.

After the Dorabot machine was put in as part of a pilot project, the Miami facility was able to sort 35 percent more packages per hour.

Dorabot, based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is seeing growing demand for its AI-robotic solutions during the pandemic. It is working hard to hone its research and development prowess to accelerate its overseas expansion.

Founded in 2014, Dorabot has established offices in countries including the United States, Australia, Singapore and Japan. Its AI-robotic solutions were adopted by clients such as Danish shipping giant Maersk and German multinational chemical company BASF SE.

Deng Xiaobai, co-founder and CEO of Dorabot, said the company received a significant increase in inquiries amid the pandemic about AI and robots from customers. The entire market was stimulated and demand has expanded, which is a good thing for the robotics and AI industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven changes in the business of logistics, which includes the acceleration of innovation, automation and digitalization in the workplace. During the pandemic, robotics allowed for greater social distancing without affecting productivity, Deng said.

Aside from the pandemic, seasonality, labor shortages and increasingly fast turnaround times are also some of the issues that keep fulfillment and logistics managers worldwide awake at night. Bleary-eyed discussions about process improvement, throughput rates and KPIs dominate the landscape. As a result, phones are ringing at the offices of Dorabot.

Dorabot provides integrated robotic solutions that efficiently and accurately complete the types of tasks that are often repetitive, difficult and strenuous.

Deng said compared with most intelligent logistics companies, Dorabot is one of the few in the market that can provide overall solutions and it also has the most potential to offer smart solutions for the entire logistics process.

Currently, the penetration rate of smart logistics products in the entire logistics industry is still low. Most logistics companies are still using traditional manpower or simple automation, which means there is great growth potential in the field, Deng added.

Dorabot is partnering with Japanese robotics companies such as Fanuc and Yaskawa Electric Corp to meet the demand for innovative robotic fulfillment solutions. Its sorting robot called DoraSorter, for instance, features a Dorabot-patented conveyor belt end effector and an industrial robotic arm made by a variety of brands based on customer needs.

Deng said the sorting robot includes the collaborative application of complex AI technologies such as machine learning, computer vision and motion trajectory planning, which are independently developed by the company.

The DoraSorter robot's "eyes" are located within a scanning tunnel affixed with a high-speed barcode scanner and a high-definition camera. Using a custom rack system, the robot can deliver items weighing up to 6.8 kilograms to 100 or more destinations, including totes, bags and put walls.

The International Federation of Robotics predicted in October global robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow 13 percent year-on-year to 435,000 units in 2021, surpassing the record level achieved in 2018.

Specifically, installations in North America are expected to increase 17 percent year-on-year to almost 43,000 units. Robot installations in Asia are tipped to top the 300,000-unit mark and add 15 percent to the previous year's result, IFR said.

Such a "boom after crisis" offers opportunities for startups such as Dorabot in international markets.

"When exploring overseas business, we are more inclined to establish strategic cooperation with leading companies in each industry to enhance product awareness and credibility, and jointly set industry business standards with leading companies, so as to gain recognition from other potential customers in the same industry," Deng said.

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