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Why AI Sorting Robots Are Now Here To Stay

By FedEx | First published: March 15, 2022    Updated: November 14, 2023

As e-commerce explodes, logistics is turning to tech, big data and automation to meet demand, meaning intelligent, AI-powered sorting robots are here to stay.

Ever seen an army of warehousing robots at work? From selection and sorting to loading, robots are increasingly adopted to automate repetitive, high-volume tasks in warehouses, factories and stock rooms. Elsewhere, waste solution jobs like sorting through rubbish and recycling – messy, difficult or potentially dangerous work for humans – can be taken on by robots too.

Robotics on a global scale

So where are these robots used most – and which industries are powering adoption fastest? Together, the automotive, aviation and logistics industries are driving the greatest order volumes to service manufacturing and supply chain.

Asia Pacific is sprinting ahead in the robotics race. Japan is the world’s biggest exporter of robots globally. Of the top 10 countries in the world for robotics automation, five are in Asia, with Singapore coming out on top.

So: what’s the future of robots in logistics? Automation tech, powered by ongoing feats in big data and machine learning, is transforming the logistics space.
Male Chinese FedEx employee labels white packages in warehouse

Our sorting robot solution for Asia Pacific and beyond

In response to this evolving landscape, we’ve introduced a first-of-its-kind, intelligent sorting robot in two of our key sorting facilities: South China and, more recently, Singapore. Adoption of robotic automation technology represents our smart logistics vision for the entire Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Sorting robots reduce the need for a manual sorting process, improving accuracy and speed.

As the world’s largest e-commerce market, China is making major strides in robot adoption for the logistics sector. In such a fast-moving market, new and innovative solutions are needed all the time to help players keep up with demand and drive growth.

China also experiences huge seasonal peaks, such as Double 11 and Spring Festival, when manpower might be low. Sorting robots are helping to transform the entire logistics industry with a truly intelligent supply chain system.

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Similarly in Singapore, our focus on automation echoes broader industry trends. Triggered by the global pandemic, logistics players are optimizing operational efficiencies, from warehouse management to last-mile delivery. The global warehouse automation market is projected to exceed USD 51 billion by 2030. And thanks to the growth of e-commerce and healthcare logistics in emerging economies, analysts foresee significant growth in APAC’s warehouse automation industry market share.
Purple robotic arm robot sorting packages

So, what exactly does the the FedEx sorting robot do? Check out the top five sorting bot facts below – and a video showing the robot in action:

  • Robotic arm can sort up to 1,000 packages per hour

  • Sorting abilities allow the robot to cover up to 100 destinations simultaneously

  • Depending on the model, the bot can sort small packages of up to 10kg

  • High sorting speeds means it can quickly sort perishable items such as fruits

  • Equipped with a barcode reader, the bot has an accuracy rate of more than 98.5%

The sorting bot scans packages to obtain destination information, then move the package from conveyor belt to the correct destination slot. In future, this technology could allow sorting hubs to evolve and become round-the-clock sorting operations.

Besides the sorting robots in Asia Pacific, we make use of robotic arms to process small packages and letters at our Memphis Hub. We’ve also worked with Berkshire Grey, a leading AI-enabled robotic solutions provider, to deploy Robotic Product Sortation and Identification systems at eight sorting facilities including New York, Las Vegas and Ohio.
Delivering the future
Automating logistics using intelligent robots represents our latest push to digitize operations. Globally, we’re building a smart logistics network for our customers, ensuring we can handle ever-growing volumes of e-commerce shipments.

As for what’s coming next: watch this space! As cities and deliveries get smarter, robots will become more tightly knitted into the fabric of our communities. From AI and blockchain to big data and drones, check out more technology and innovation initiatives from FedEx here.
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