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CJ Logistics deploys 140 wheeled robots for increased shipping efficiency across Asia-Pacific

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INCHEON : CJ Logistics, with its Global Distribution Center (GDC) in Incheon, is currently testing a new way to process stored goods to get them ready for international shipping more efficiently.

One hundred and forty wheeled robots incessantly move on rails atop a gigantic grid structure within a massive warehouse that consists of 76,000 bins stacked up to the height of 16 bins, or 5.3 meters. Each of the Autostore robots has its own mission: locating certain goods, from among 30,000 different products stored in one or several of the bins, picking up the bins and delivering them to one of the station employees waiting next to the lattice-like structure on the ground floor.

The company describes its Autostore operation as a goods-to-person system, an evolution from the time-consuming “rack” system of the past when employees had to look for pallets of goods somewhere in a warehouse. Autostore also utilizes space better than racks by compacting all of the bins in the grid, making it four times more efficient space-wise, according to the company.

The station employees place the received goods in cardboard boxes and then send them on to a packaging section via a conveyor belt and they barely need to move their feet during the process.

The robots also constantly restock the bins in allocated bins. More popular goods are stored in upper bins so it takes less time for the robots to access them.

Autostore has so far proven to reduce GDC’s entire “fulfillment” process time – from shipping in goods to storing, picking, inspecting, packaging and shipping them out – by 2.8 times compared to previous processes. It will complete testing this month and be deployed next month. The technology, imported from Norway, is currently only used in Korea’s logistics industry by CJ.

“Autostore is also easily expandable. We can simply add more bins to the existing cubic area and install more rails for the robots,” said Heo Sin-youl, one of the company’s executives.

Currently, the company’s GDC is run with the quick picking system (QPS), Autostore’s predecessor, which was launched when the warehouse commenced operations in 2019. Using the two systems, the company expects its GDC will make shipments to countries in Asia and Oceania faster than any other company in the world.

“It’s for the global cross-border e-commerce (CBE) market that will grow to 178 trillion won ($135 billion) in size by 2026,” said Heo citing Transport Intelligence’s Global e-commerce Logistic 2022 report.

GDC is unlike a normal warehouse. It keeps goods from companies overseas that are in high demand among customers in other countries. When those companies receive orders for the goods, they ship them out from the GDC that is closest to the customer so that their shipment takes less time than departing from the countries where the goods are manufactured.

CJ is currently building a new GDC in Saudi Arabia to facilitate faster shipment between the Middle East and the rest of the world.

“The stronger logistic networks we have, the more advantageous Korea becomes as a hub of global logistics,” said Heo. “It’s a highway for globally increasing e-commerce. And it will also help Korean small-to-midsize firms ship out their products worldwide faster and easier.”

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