Package delivery, Shenzhen Style

Boxes awaiting delivery, a motorized cart loaded to the top (don't try this at home!), handcarts awaiting the elevator.

Boxes awaiting delivery, a motorized cart loaded to the top (don't try this at home!), handcarts awaiting the elevator.

Shenzhen is the electronics capital of China, and the downtown Futian District where we work is crammed with technology malls housing hundreds of assembly stalls and parts dealers, as well as showrooms both large and small.

However, the component manufacturers and assembly suppliers that feed these enterprises are mostly located in the Bao'an District, about an hour's drive to the northwest (it's still in Shenzhen though). Transporting the parts from factory to dealers is a uniquely Chinese logistics system.

Every morning, and throughout the day, unmarked delivery vans arrive in the city, and empty their contents -- about 100 boxes of all sizes -- on to the sidewalk. Waiting for them are a fleet of motorized delivery carts. Boxes are loaded onto carts according to destination and size.

This is when it gets fun. The motorized carts, often packed with boxes that tower over the drivers' heads, take off down the sidewalk. These guys make their living delivering packages, so they want to drop them off and get a new load as quickly as possible. They continually beep-beep-beep their horns to warn pedestrians out of the way, because they are NOT slowing down! 

Arriving at the destination, the packages are transferred onto blue handcarts for the final leg of their journey, delivery to the workroom or shop stall. A true Shenzhen experience is observing how two fully-loaded handcarts and 10 people manage to cram into one small elevator car.

What's is amazing about all this is that you can order a component from Taobao in the morning and you might have it in your hands and ready to test in your prototype by 1 p.m. that afternoon. There is nowhere else for making electronics like Shenzhen!