FedEx installs sorting robot in China

  • February 7, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

FedEx Express in China has launched the DoraSorter AI-powered intelligent sorting robot in collaboration with Dorabot.

The sorting robot represents the company’s latest push in digitising its operations and building a smart logistics network to handle the ever-growing volumes of ecommerce-related shipments in the region.

The first of its kind in China for FedEx, the DoraSorter robot is being deployed at the 5200m2 FedEx South China ecommerce shipment sorting centre in Guangzhou. DoraSorter is already part of the daily sorting operations and can handle small inbound and outbound packages from ecommerce customers in south China.

While FedEx and Dorabot teams continue to fine-tune the robot based on operational requirements and explore more applications, DoraSorter’s core function of sorting parcels based on destination matches the sorting centre’s operation process.

At approximately 40m2, the robot can carry up to 10kg of packages, covering up to 100 destinations simultaneously. The robot has a drawer-shaped gripper that can connect with the conveyor belt seamlessly. Equipped with a barcode reader that scans packages to obtain destination information, the robot uses its gripper to receive a package inwards from the conveyor belt and moves it outwards to the corresponding destination slot.

FedEx investment in this warehouse automation echoes broader industry trends. Triggered by the global pandemic, logistics players are optimising operational efficiencies, from warehouse management to last-kilometre delivery, to cater to the soaring demand for ecommerce products, seasonal peaks and consumers’ heightened expectations for fast delivery.

According to McKinsey, the global warehouse automation market is projected to reach $51bn by 2030. By 2025, more than four million commercial robots will be installed at more than 50,000 warehouses.

“With ecommerce taking centre stage in the future of retail in our region, the speed with which a parcel can be picked up and delivered to customers’ doorsteps has become a dominant factor in driving the adoption of sorting robots,” said Kawal Preet, president of the Amea region at FedEx Express. “Bringing DoraSorter to China as a pilot programme is a natural choice for us given it’s the world’s biggest ecommerce market with an expected valuation of $3.3trn by 2025. As we look to build a data-driven, smart logistics network to help our customers thrive in the digital economy, this alliance with Dorabot is part of becoming the network for what’s next. AI-powered technology will continue to change how we support customers in the region and enhance supply chains for the future.”

Robert Chu, vice president of operations for FedEx China, added: “Innovation is at our core and is a major factor behind FedEx strategy in China. To meet customers’ changing needs, we have been exploring and investing in new technologies to enhance every key aspect of transportation. The rapid rise in ecommerce has led to higher customer demand for timeliness and flexibility in logistics services, creating new challenges and opportunities for the entire logistics industry. Our collaboration with Dorabot is our latest effort to improve operational efficiencies and build an agile logistics infrastructure through robotics technology that will support the growth of China’s ecommerce industry.”

And Xiaobai Deng, CEO of Dorabot, said: “The use of DoraSorter helps FedEx sort a higher volume of cross-border ecommerce shipments. It is the starting point of a global collaboration between Dorabot and FedEx. We hope that we can work together to bring AI and robotics applications to more businesses and consumers.”