Robots help Yellow Tail Wines conquer China

It’s a long way from the NSW Riverina in Australia to Shenzhen in China, but that’s the journey the iconic Aussie export success Yellow Tail wine is taking to join the logistics revolution that is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR’s).

We are currently a few days into a 2 week TM Insight study tour of China online operations and equipment manufacturers to help the participants from leading Australian businesses better prepare for using automation to serve their online or small order customers.

At the Shenzhen warehouse of Alibaba logistics affiliate CaiNiao Alliance 150 robots have replaced up to 800 workers in picking same day ecommerce orders including bottles of Australia’s famous Yellow Tail wine.

The warehouse uses Quicktron’s Kiva style robots to service 18,000 SKU the slowest moving portion of the 45,000 SKU in the facility.

While the rest of the SKUs are picked from conventional walk-in shelves and ground level full pallet & shelf pick faces, it is the AMR section that most clearly shows the future of small order automation.

Using batch picking from 2.4m tall mobile storage units (MSU’s) holding up to 70 different SKU, the pickers can pick an average of 350 items per hour into 24 totes at each of 18 pick stations.

Completed totes are conveyed to a secondary sort station where products are scanned again into shipper cartons for transfer onto either further picking or final despatch processing.

Speed and flexibility of deployment is what makes the Quicktron solution even more attractive. The 1500 MSU’s and associated areas occupy 5,000m2 and were relocated recently from an adjoining shed in one hour without interrupting the normal pick activity. Try doing that in a conventional operation!

Pick accuracy is enhanced by multiple scan check stations and a final while carton scan and repackaged video to assure customers of accurate deliveries.

Speaking of deliveries, same day and next day picks service an 80km radius that holds a population of around 30 million including cross borders shipments into Hong Kong.

What’s truly exciting is seeing the home grown Chinese innovation that is producing, developing, controlling and using the physical and IT infrastructure to achieve amazing throughputs with minimal labour.

I’ll report more on the fundamentals of AMR deployment as the study tour progresses. In the meantime, if you are an Australian business involved in small order logistics, start thinking about a transition to AMR’s .

What’s more, if you’re an Australian food or beverage producer get hold of Alibaba or and join Yellow Tail in accessing China’s billion or so online consumers, using the latest logistics automation revolution of AMR’s to do it!


Adam Noakes
Director – Supply Chain at TM Insight