Flipkart is bringing in robots to help it sort through packages

Flipkart is bringing in robots to help it sort through packages
Flipkart's new robot based automation system to help it sort packages before deliveryFlipkart

  • Flipkart has just announced that it's bringing in robots to help it sort through packages before delivery at its Soukya center in Bangalore.
  • These Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) can sort packages according to their delivery pincodes.
  • The company also claims that the new technology will not negatively impact the existing workforce since the existing the employees will be 'upskilled' to handle 'higher value adding work'.
Amazon's primary contender in India's e-commerce space, Flipkart, is bringing in robots to help it sort through packages before they go off to be delivered.

The Walmart-owned online marketplace handles eight million shipments per month, on average, and its new Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) will help the company meet the increasing demand of Indian users — more of whom are coming online each day.

The pilot project of the robot-based sortation technology is being implemented at Flipkart's Soukya sortation center in Bangalore. The entire setup includes over a 100 self-guided robots that will automatically sort the packages according to the delivery pin codes.
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Initial tests run by Flipkart show that every hundred AGVs lead to a 60% increase in process efficiency. So, working in conjunction, the robots can process upto 4,500 shipments within an hour.

The company claims that the other advantage of having this setup is that it can moved really easily as well. The mobility factor, according to Flipkart, make it easier for it to scale if there are any supply chain operations expansion requirements for future demand.

But, within the existing infrastructure that Flipkart has to operate, AGVs improve the facilities output and remove the need for space expansion.

What's the catch?

If automation is coming in to take over a task that humans normally implement, what's going to happen to the workforce? For instance, one of the main concerns with Amazon in the US is how automation is taking over.

During the holiday sales in December 2018, the Jeff Bezos' enterprise announced more items had been ordered worldwide than ever before. Yet, somehow, it had managed to do with fewer seasonal employees — 'than ever before'.

Amazon, in multiple reports, has maintained that automation doesn't take jobs away but that robotics only augment work processes — insisting that there is room for both.

In Flipkart's case, the company claims existing workforce will be upskilled to do "higher value-adding work — all at a similar or lower cost."

The use of AGVs will enable Flipkart to upskill unskilled labour and future automation will create space for Indian engineers to leverage their expertise in this arena.

Flipkart Press Release

Flipkart also points out that the rest of staff will be trained on how to operate and maintain the new machinery.

The AGVs will work in conjunction with facility staff, who will be trained in operating them.

Flipkart Press Release

It's understandable that Flipkart is looking for a way to limit its expenses especially since, despite its 50% jump in revenue, the e-commerce platform reported a fivefold increase in losses during FY18.

And, it the ever increasing pressure to meet consumer deadlines as Flipkart and Amazon go head-to-head in the Indian market is no joke. If Amazon is using automated solutions to increase its efficiency, Flipkart's robot driven solution only seems fairplay.

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