When Big Data And IoT Meet JD’s Logistics

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Behind the scenes, JD’s technology – a combination of big data and algorithms – plays an essential role in enabling a highly efficient logistics network that is flexible enough to be applied for normal and emergency conditions. So, how is it done?

Article by Ling Cao

Senior Manager of Global Corporate Affairs, JD.com

When the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, JD rapidly arranged its logistics network to transport medical supplies and daily necessities. The company also deployed drones and autonomous delivery robots to help on the frontlines. Behind the scenes, JD’s technology – a combination of big data and algorithms – plays an essential role in enabling a highly efficient logistics network that is flexible enough to be applied for normal and emergency conditions. So, how is it done? What is the next step for technology development in the future? The secret may unveil itself in three aspects: Warehousing, transportation, and delivery.

Warehousing

Looking from the top network design level, based on big data and algorithms, JD designs its fulfillment network layout to make sure it puts products closest to its customers. JD has a self-developed, integrated warehousing system, which can integrate all the software and hardware systems together, making sure they can work as efficiently as possible. Based on operations optimization algorithms, logistics simulation technology (which can simulate real scenarios on a platform), and machine learning, JD achieves smart warehousing throughout the whole supply chain, including smart forecast, smart inventory management, smart scheduling, and operations. To make it more user-friendly, all operations can be managed through both PC and mobile terminals.

Let’s put optimizing the sorting process as an example. JD deals with several million stock-keeping units, or SKU, every day. How can the company make sure the sorting process is accurate and fast? Since 2007, when JD started to build its logistics network, the sorting process has gone from purely using manpower to being handled automatically by multiple machines. For example, JD developed an automated guided vehicle that can transport an entire shelf to warehouse workers so that workers only need to scan products from the shelves. Previously, they would need to walk all around the warehouse to pick up goods. The automated system can simultaneously improve both sorting accuracy and the efficiency.

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