ATHENS -- In a country where mail delivery can be iffy - you might find letters on the ground instead of the mailbox - Greece’s postal service has begun using a Chinese-made robotic method for sorting items.
Hellenic Post (ELTA) got the automated, fully digitalized system from China's Zhejiang LiBiao Robot Company, China’s state-run Xinhua news service reported, but it wasn’t said if the machines would eventually replace humans.
Errikos Tzavaras, Chief Executive Officer at ELTA Courier, a member company of ELTA Group, told Xinhua in a recent interview here that the installation is "the first in Europe,” as well as in China, Japan and at Walmart in the United States.
Since mid-August, a fleet of 55 tiny yellow robots has been used side-by-side with employees at a mail sorting facility in Kryoneri, a northern suburb of Athens, instead of the former process that was mostly manual and semi-mechanized, the report said.
The robots receive parcels at eight infeed stations, identify their destination through a code-scan, and distribute them at 144 sorting destinations, handling currently nearly 76 percent of total deliveries at the sorting center.
Tzavaras explained: "We are better utilizing our human resources. We avoid human errors and we are making the work easier for employees. Moreover, we have increased the speed of the sorting process by 250 percent."
He said another advantage is safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that can keep workers further apart as he said it’s also part of a plan for a more digital post office in the 21st Century.
"This investment was part of our digital transformation and the pandemic showed the need to accelerate the process," Tzavaras told Xinhua. Robots can’t, of course, replace the people who deliver the mail. Well, so far.