Want to hear the kind of number that make even logistics experts go white with fear? This year, China’s post office is estimating that Singles Day will generate a whopping 760 million packages. Yes, just 24 hours of online shopping is expected to result in nearly 800 million shipments headed all over the massive nation. That’s crazy.
It’s also up pretty significantly from last year, when Singles Day generated 540 million packages, according to the post office. Given that this year logistics providers may be struggling to cope with new and more stringent safety restrictions when it comes to shipping, adding an extra 220 million packages onto last year’s total sounds like the recipe for a lot of headaches.
Take to the cloud
How do logistics firms plan to deal with it? Cloud warehousing. That’s a term for smart, automated warehouse systems that can handle orders far more quickly than human-run systems could. At a massive warehouse in Guangzhou belonging to logistics company Baishi, for example, a Southern Metropolis reporter found that the 80,000 square meter facility was stocked with over six million items. Using a highly scientific layout and big data analysis to execute efficiently, the system can begin preparing shipments almost instantly once a vendor receives an order. Last year on Singles Day, the facility handled 3 million orders in the first 24 hours and had fully shipped 4 million packages by 72 hours.
The ecommerce vendors themselves play an important role in this, of course. Logistics warehouses stock up on items prior to Singles Day based on sales estimates from major vendors like JD and Alibaba. Though there’s no way to predict and prepare every order that comes in on 11/11, there is a lot of work that can be done prior to that day that will make shipping popular items easier once the orders start rolling in.
All of that automation can’t totally replace humans, of course – especially with self-driving delivery vehicles still years down the road. That means that logistics companies also handle the crush by hiring. Baishi, for example, will hire about 35,000 workers (many of them temporary) to help it handle the holiday crush. And like most logistics companies, it has spent the time since the last Singles Day working to get ready for this one, doing things like adding 1,600 new vehicles to its fleet.
Even so, this year’s Singles Day is going to be a challenge. When you’re clicking away like mad on Tmall or JD next week, spare a moment to tip your cap to the men, women, and machines who’ll be working around the clock to get your package – and the other 759,999,999 ordered that day – shipped and delivered on time.
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