Inside Flipkart’s Big Box: how robots, cobots help pick and pack your package
- Walmart-backed e-commerce platform
Flipkartemploys huge fulfilment centres as storage facilities for its goods.
- It has warehouses, fulfilment centres and delivery hubs spread across the country to ensure a seamless operation for its business.
- Business Insider India tries to decode the complex supply chain that Flipkart relies upon and its newly installed robotic machines.
AdvertisementE-commerce giant Flipkart uses hundreds of robots and cobots to improve its operations and ensure a smooth delivery experience to your doorstep.
Its warehouses, fulfilment centres and delivery hubs that are spread across the country ensure a seamless operation for its business.
At its biggest fulfilment centre in India, located 50 kilometres from Kolkata at Haringhata, the facility uses new technologies such as automated storage and retrieval systems, robotic packaging arms, cross belt sorters, a nine-kilometre-long network conveyor belt and automated guided vehicles.
Nearly 70% of these automation technologies deployed at Haringhata were built in India and it reduces Flipkart’s turnaround time by 35-50% in shipment movement.
“With the help of route optimisations and dynamic planning, Flipkart ensures reliable deliveries to customers while optimising for cost and resources in all eventualities, including supply-chain disruptions,” Hemant Badri, senior vice president and head of supply chain, Flipkart Group told Business Insider India.
Using robots to speed up delivery
Before your order reaches your doorstep, it goes through several stages at Flipkart’s fulfilment centres.
If you order a teddy bear from Flipkart – from unloading a package from various sellers into the centre to sending it to you – it goes through a long supply chain.
In-bound: Products from various sellers are unloaded into the fulfilment centre and they go through a quality check by employees.
AdvertisementSorting and retrieval: Products are sorted by an intelligent conveyor belt, shelved as per their categories, and retrieved when an order is placed. For example, your teddy bear could be shelved in a soft toy section, retrieved when you place an order.
Packaging: The teddy will then be packed into a box as per its size. It is not just humans that choose the right size, robotic packaging makers produce boxes too and drop the packages containing the product into a white courier bag. The robot is managed by an engineer.
Shipments: The teddy then sits on a 9-km-long cross-belt sorter, which assigns shipments as per different pin codes.
Out-bound: Here, your teddy will go through one last quality check and shipped as per your pincode.
AdvertisementAfter the package reaches a delivery hub, a machine called Allocation Engine takes over.
Explaining the machine’s role, Badri said, “[It] distributes goods among the many delivery models that offer the fastest time allocated to the location of the consumer.”
With an increasing demand for quick deliveries, Flipkart relies on Automated Beat Planner, which predicts the average reaching time. It also predicts any roadblocks that might cause delays.
“It forecasts the attempt time, padded with data-backed buffers and round-offs, to account for on-field deviation in plan execution and prediction of inaccuracies in quick deliveries using technologies like Automated Beat Planner (to suggest the delivery agent's route) and FLIP (to gauge customer's address accuracy),” shared Badri.
In India, Flipkart has over 80 facility centres – 18 of which are large facilities that store appliances and 21 fulfilment centres are for groceries. Three new big boxes, or fulfilment centres, will be launched in the next three years.
AdvertisementUsing solar energy to power robots
Flipkart’s newly added machines, which have increased efficiency, also require a huge amount of electricity to function. Walmart-backed Flipkart has installed solar panels which can power heavy machinery.
“We are running at least eight hours on solar and 25-30% of power consumption savings we have done so far,” said Prabhakr Kolla, VP, F&I at ekart, Flipkart.
The facility has a three-megawatt solar power plant and the platform aims to touch 40 megawatts all across facilities in a few years.
The process of commissioning a 2.75 megawatt rooftop solar power plant at Haringhata has also begun.
AdvertisementBadri said that with increased storage at Kolkata’s new centre, combined with automation, Flipkart’s productivity has gone up 15-20% before their flagship Big Billion Days sale.
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