Amazon has recently upgraded its warehouses by inducting a total of 15,000 robots that work in collaboration with human employees. The workers used to walk in these mammoth warehouses and find stuff, however, now robots have been assigned this task while human employees tackle other aspects of the process.
These robots are capable of bringing big stacks of books, toys and other products to the employees for packing. Amazon has unveiled the technology just in time to make sure it was ready for deployment on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday, if you are not aware, is the busiest day for shopping when it comes to shopping online. UK customers only are expected to spend a total of £600 million in a day.
Amazon’s workers are actually happy with the robots and one 34 years old worker, Rejinaldo Rosales, said, “We pick two to three times faster than we used to. It’s made the job a lot easier.” Rejinaldo Rosales works at the Amazon distribution center in Tracy, California. Amazon has a total of 109 shipping centers all over the world with 10 of these centers having robotic workers. The robots make use of the technology that was provided by Kiva Systems back in 2012 when the company bought it.
Let’s look at the Tracy center and understand what difference does having robotic workers make over here. First off, it is a huge centre with an area of 1.2 million sq. ft. – that’s equal to 28 football fields. It has a total of 1,500 full-time employees and an army of 3,000 Kiva Robots. These robots move around the warehouse quietly and navigate with the help of coded stickers on the floor. The digital commands are relayed to them from a central computer. The robot is capable of lifting a stack of shelves that’s four feet in height and weighs 340 kg by sliding underneath it.
Bar codes allow the system to ascertain which items are on the shelf, enabling the robot to get the right shelves for workers as per the orders coming in. Tracy center has about 20 million items with 3.5 million unique products. According to Mr. Clark, 700,000 items in a day can be shipped out easily and the centre is likely to store more items to ship by 2015. The robots will be bringing down the operation cost by 20%, however, human jobs won’t be diminished. He said, “Our focus is all about building automation that helps people do their jobs better.” Workers are required for other complex tasks such as packing, shelving and finding damaged items.
Mr Rosales also revealed that the robots “actually adjust to your speed. If you’re picking slower, they slow down.” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is also hopeful that one day deliveries will be made via drones – so, who’s buying from Amazon?