by Xinhua writers Zhang Zhaoqing, Zhou Qianxian and Gao Jianfei
BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- At a bustling logistics center of Sinopharm Holding Guangzhou Co., Ltd. in southern China's Guangdong Province, an artificial intelligence (AI) robotic era is dawning.
A fleet of autonomous mobile robots shuttle non-stop as they transport shelves loaded with products. Equipped with AI-enabled vision cameras, palletizers can plan their movements and grab and stack items precisely. Meanwhile, AI scanners can read the information on medicine boxes which travel on conveyors from five sides.
Sinopharm Holding Guangzhou, a major pharmaceutical distributor in southern China, has seen its logistics center breaking its operational limits deployed over 12 years ago. Each human worker there had to lift 15 tonnes of products and walk 30,000 steps per day.
But now, it is a different scenario. By adopting Megvii's intelligent logistics solution, the warehouse has effectively embraced automation, marking a significant improvement in its operation. The integration has helped the warehouse to realize a 25-percent boost in overall efficiency and a 15-percent increase in storage density.
The AI startup Megvii, known for its expertise in computer vision recognition, deep algorithms, and the Internet of Things, has been actively integrating with the country's manufacturing sector in recent years, making its own AI-enabled robots and equipment such as MegBots and AI stacker cranes.
"By applying AI technology to production in the real world, we can better facilitate the high-quality growth of the real economy," said Xu Qingcai, senior vice president of Megvii and general manager of the logistics business department.
BOOMING DEMAND FOR AI-POWERED UPGRADING
AI is playing an increasingly crucial role in realizing the digital upgrading of the world factory, against the backdrop of rising labor costs and an aging population.
China has put the digital economy high on the agenda in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), regarding this sector as an essential engine for building a modern economic system. The country also vows to grasp the opportunities of the new scientific and technological revolution, such as AI, to ensure smarter, greener, and more integrated industries.
As the era of digital business arrives, the integration of digital business with manufacturing has become inevitable and an important condition for revitalizing the real economy, said an industry report published by the global market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
By 2025, 40 percent of Chinese manufacturers are expected to deploy AI-based tools within their organizations to support decision-making processes and maximize data value, said the report.
China's AI market will see explosive growth in the coming years, said Zhong Zhenshan, vice president of IDC China, predicting that the country's AI market scale will top 14.75 billion U.S. dollars in 2023 and further expand to reach 26.44 billion dollars in 2026.
INNOVATION BEHIND INTEGRATION
For many years now, China has built top-tier AI infrastructures such as intelligent computing centers, data centers, and deep learning platforms. AI implementation is gaining ground across a host of industries, resulting in a deeper integration of the digital and real economy.
Beijing Trunk Technology Co., Ltd. (TRUNK), an AI-powered enterprise developing autonomous trucks, has realized the world's first large-scale commercial deployment of L4 autonomous driving, a level of driving automation where vehicles can operate without a human at the wheel, at the Tianjin Port.
The driverless trucks can quickly recognize containers and mechanical equipment, automatically make driving decisions such as deceleration, braking and turns, and accurately choose the most optimized route to a designated area, according to Zhang Tianlei, founder and CEO of TRUNK.
Tianjin Port Group, the operator of the port, reported that its second container terminal had experienced a 20-percent increase in operational efficiency and a 60-percent reduction in labor costs, thanks to the utilization of AI and other advanced technologies.
Currently, TRUNK deploys over 200 L4 driverless trucks at ports including Tianjin and Zhoushan, said Zhang, adding that the company's competitiveness in autonomous driving comes from its extensive investment in research and development (R&D). "Over 70 percent of our expenditure goes on R&D, and around 80 percent of our staff are engaged in R&D."
"Innovation is the lifeline of our company," Zhang said, adding that the government's planning and policy support for AI companies also helped the company to thrive.