Amazon can’t get enough human workers — so here come the robots

Amazon is deploying a robot army that soon may choose and sort the bulk of the 13 million shipments it sends out each day.

Why it’s important The world’s largest online retailer is searching for methods to speed up shipment processing due to an increase in demand for expedited delivery.



Workers at various Amazon facilities who complain of accidents and weariness have started union organizing campaigns as a result of speed pressure.

According to Recode, which cited internal Amazon research, turnover rates are so high that the business worries it may run out of candidates to recruit in its American warehouses by 2024.
Amazon’s response? greater automation

The organization hopes to train workers for more highly skilled positions like mechatronics or software engineering while automating the most difficult, repetitive chores.

Tye Brady, the head technologist at Amazon Robotics, claims that rather than displacing employees, robots can actually make their life simpler. “You can increase your productivity tremendously if you redefine your relationship with computers.”

Currently, some sort of automation is involved in around 75% of Amazon orders as they make their way from the warehouse to the customer’s door.

Still, picking out specific things and packing them for delivery are primarily done by human hands.

The most recent: Amazon just unveiled a bevy of new robots that will assist it in moving, choosing, and shipping goods.



For instance, “Proteus” resembles an enormous Roomba. The autonomous robot is able to navigate through a warehouse while being able to slide beneath an 800-pound cart loaded with items.
Before items are sent out for delivery, robot arms like “Robin” and “Cardinal” may sift and reroute them to other warehouse sites.

According to the firm, Sparrow, Amazon’s newest robot, marks a significant advancement in automation.

Sparrow uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect, pick, and handle millions of distinct goods, unlike previous robots that can only sort a small number of sizes and types of packages.

How it functions During a recent demonstration at an Amazon robotics plant south of Boston, where it can produce up to 330,000 robots annually, the business displayed Sparrow’s capabilities.

I observed as Sparrow’s robotic arm went into a container filled with haphazard goods and pulled out particular objects using a “hand” consisting of tiny suction cups.
It was able to locate and pick out goods that were hidden behind other items, altering its grasp to handle various objects before placing them in the proper sorting container.

According to Amazon, Sparrow can recognize around 65% of the company’s product inventory and can determine whether an item is damaged and should be thrown away. As it learns, it improves.
What they’re saying: According to Amazon Robotics vice president Joe Quinlivan, “I genuinely think what we’re going to achieve in the next five years is going to dwarf everything we’ve done in the prior 10 years.”

We’re keeping an eye on the effects on employment held by people.

Amazon claims to have generated 700 new job categories in addition to more than 1 million new robot-related occupations, including maintenance, technical, and operational positions as well as hardware and software engineers.

A 40% wage rise was announced for around 1,400 participants in a company-sponsored apprenticeship program for mechatronics and robotics.

In addition, despite cutbacks among its white-collar workers, Amazon is still hiring in its warehouses.

Yes, but not all warehouse workers are amenable to “upskilling.”



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