The Hong Kong-headquartered logistics company utilizes robotic arms in its Food & Beverage stockrooms to boost sorting efficiency and up overall productivity. The robots are dubbed “Koolbotic” and are becoming part of the company’s ongoing strategy to increase automation in its operations, with the goal to raise accuracy and reduce personnel costs.
In industrial production processes, robots have long been an integral part of value creation, in the automotive industry for instance. In Japan, they walk or roll through homes to clean or help residents with everyday tasks. Just two examples illustrating that the triumphant progress of this kind of machine has long since begun.
Jumping Into the Deep End
The only area where robots have been virtually absent so far, however, is the logistics industry. The only exception being Amazon’s last week inaugurated new Air Hub at Cincinnati Airport where sorting robots are utilized (https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2021/08/15/amazon-air-has-proudly-opened-a-huge-hub-at-cincinnati-airport-cvg/). This is mainly because the daily work processes in logistics are very diverse and therefore hardly programmable and therefore ill-suited for the use of robots. For example, most warehouses, storage facilities, or distribution centers require an array of tasks that simply aren’t monotonous.
Despite a lack of experience, Kerry Logistics has now decided to jump into the deep end by installing their Koolbotics in a distribution center that the company’s Logistics Network has been managing for one of the UK's leading retailers in Hong Kong since 2011.
The machine’s task: handling and sorting large volumes of chilled-food products in a low-temperature environment and with a relatively short lead time to market.
Robots Don’t Need Any Breaks, Demand No Pay Raise, and Cannot Strike
Koolbotics are programmed to work 20-hour shifts, resulting in raising sorting productivity by 20%. Essentially collaborative in nature, Koolbotics also support warehouse staff as they can endure freezing conditions which would be detrimental to humans for prolonged periods of time. In doing so, one could argue that the Kerry robots safeguard the health and safety of the employees.
Automation is becoming an integral part of Kerry Logistics Network's operation, especially amid the pandemic, where companies have gone to great lengths in order to minimize human contact during the sorting process within warehouses.
The Koolbot Program Will Be Expanded
In light of the recent rapid growth of e-commerce, Kerry Logistics Network announced their interest in exploring possibilities of expanding the utilization of robotics for other sectors.
This is confirmed by Samuel Lau, Deputy Managing Director - Integrated Logistics of Kerry Logistics Network: “We anticipate installing more Koolbotics in our logistics centers to take our operations to the next level." The manager went on to say: “At Kerry Logistics Network, we are firm believers of leveraging the benefits of technological advances to bolster our productivity as well as to improve the working conditions of our people. We see this type of selective automation and collaborative robots as the future of our industry, as it combines the best of both worlds - the flexibility of humans and the endurance of machines.”
As proof of this, the company points to multiple initiatives of its Food & Beverage department to implement latest technology developments, including blockchain, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
F&B belongs to the key products offered the market by Kerry Logistics. Main customers are retail chains, hotels or restaurants, which are all ensured that any temp critical goods handled by Kerry Logistics stay at their optimum temperatures from pick-up to the point of final delivery.
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