China’s largest e-commerce platform Tmall has installed smart robots made by Beijing-based robot manufacturer Geek+ at its Tianjin distribution center since 2015. Now dozens of Geek+ robots are working there at speeds humans can’t compete with.
Geek+ robots work by picking up shelves of products from the warehouse floor and bringing them to a human worker who selects items and then packs them for shipping. The whole handling process saves time for Tmall and improves operating efficiency.
Three key factors are needed to guarantee the smooth operation of Geek+ robots: an organized Geek picking system that gives robots each assignment directly and makes them work in order; a stable high-speed network to ensure the robots don’t go offline; and a battery monitoring system in case the robot powers off.
Geek+ was founded by now CEO Zheng Yong in 2015 and has a staff of more than 30 people. It boasts an advanced R&D team focused on robot technology. In April 2015, the company received RMB 10 million (USD 1.5 million) in Series A financing from ALOG, a Guangdong-based logistics company.
The term “warehouse robot” has become well-known to the world since Kiva’s goods-to-man technology was adopted by Amazon in 2012. In September 2015, Amazon announced that they had over 30,000 Kiva robots working in its 13 distribution centers.
Tmall isn’t alone in employing warehouse robots in China. As e-commerce is the fastest growing segment of retail, many e-commerce platforms like JD.com have also changed their strategy to include the use of robots. In Q4 2015, the market turnover of online shopping reached RMB 644.38 billion, according to a 2015 Q4 report by China’s market research provider Analysys.
“We are trying to seek more business partners and get them using our product,” Zheng said, in an interview with Chinese tech blog 36Kr.