It's the busiest time of the year for online shopping and, as the biggest online retailer, Amazon is handling millions of orders. In order to meet the demand it has increased its workforce - both human and robot.
Amazon has taken on 80,000 seasonal employees to fulfill customer orders this holiday, a 14 percent increase over last year and expects that thousands of those employees will stay on in regular, full-time roles. At the same time it has invested in more technology to take on the burden of the routine legwork.
Given the size of Amazon's warehouses you might imagine that working there would involve a lot of walking to locate the items on customers orders. Not so - in the latest eighth generation fulfillment centers, of which there are 10 across the U.S, all the heavy shifting and lifting is done by robots. See them in action in this video:
As you can see, the work is shared between humans and robots - but its the robots that move, taking the shelves where the required items are stored to the pickers.
This is intended to benefit both customers and Amazon's workforce, according to Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service:
“The Amazon fulfillment teams are dedicated to innovating in our fulfillment centers to increase speed of delivery while enabling greater local selection at lower costs for our customers. The advancements in our latest fulfillment centers hit all three of these customer desires while continuing to provide a work environment that is great for employees,”
The technology in the latest fulfillment centers includes:
Kiva robots of which Amazon currently has more than 15,000 operating across the U.S. (Kiva Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com so it is a case of Amazon using its own product).
Robo-Stow, one of Earth’s largest robotic arms moving large quantities of inventory for customer order fulfillment.
Vision systems enabling the unloading and receipt of an entire trailer of inventory in as little as 30 minutes instead of hours.
High-end graphically oriented computer systems for employees to use while fulfilling orders for customers.
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