Cainiao, the $10 billion subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba, says it is poised to transform worldwide trade. Cainiao’s plan to create a single ecosystem for all logistics firms across the world to plug into, allowing for the seamless transfer of goods between companies and jurisdictions. Cainiao envisages thousands of independent logistics firms can operate within its system, sharing everything from labeling standards to customs information. Time Magazine reports about the way Cainiao is planning to do this.
Cainiao offers an open platform that allows for collaboration with 3.000 logistics partners and 3 million couriers nationally and internationally. This enables merchants to choose the most cost- and time-efficient delivery option, based upon real-time data crunching of optimum firms and routes. Cainiao CEO Wan Lin said to Time: “Because the biggest barrier to globalization is logistics.” The goal of Cainiao is to deliver a parcel anywhere in the world within 72 hours for $3. eHubs provide warehousing and distribution center services within the platform. These are smart warehouses that leverage technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robots, and artificial intelligence to digitalize operations.
By putting sensors in everything, along with cameras in every warehouse and GPS on every truck and package, Cainiao aims to digitize the logistics process from top to bottom. Being part of Alibaba means that every aspect of Cainiao’s process can be kept in-house. An organic extension of the eCommerce business would be payment, logistics, and cloud. Here, Alipay of ANT Group, Cainiao Network, and Alibaba Cloud serve these needs respectively. They are all part of one corporate ecosystem. The digitalized process allows the seamless real-time tracking of goods and shipments. Goods declaration can be done online to expedite customs clearance for shorter delivery times.
In China, it’s already common for robots to deliver food to restaurant tables, or serve as concierges in hotel lobbies. Today, the logistics industry will become a testing ground for technologies previously only seen in comics and movies. Wan Lin said to Time: “Yes, in some ways life is imitating art. We are building that sci-fi future of technological marvels.” Ultimately, the next stage is when smart learning gets injected into global logistics architecture.