Robots Inside Amazon Warehouses

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  • Post last modified:February 15, 2019

The leading online seller of the world, Amazon handles millions of requests on a daily basis. Fulfilling millions of orders is a complex task. However, Amazon’s innovative warehouse management makes it possible to serve millions across the globe with efficiency. Jeff Bezos is already known for his obsession with customer service and so is Amazon. The warehouses which Amazon calls fulfilment centers play a central role in managing the timely delivery of millions of orders. Total 175 warehouses throughout the globe make it possible for Amazon to deliver products at customers’ doorsteps in time. While a large part of Amazon’s workforce is employed inside these warehouses or fulfilment centers, only humans cannot handle all the heavy pressures of packing and shipping. This is where robots play an important role partnering humans inside those warehouses and handling the heavy lifting which would otherwise strain human muscles.

Amazon Robotics

Amazon’s warehouses have improved a lot over past five to six years. The company began the use of Robotics in 2012 after it acquired Kiva systems, a Boston based company and renamed it Amazon Robotics. This was the second largest ever acquisition made by Amazon. It also showed how much Amazon was focused on growing the productivity of its supply chain and logistics through the use of innovations in AI and automation. The company has seen impressive growth in customer base and revenue. Its warehouses which have grown fast in number. They service billions of orders every year around the world. Out of the 175 fulfilment centers, there are 26 inside which Amazon associates work with robotics to pack and ship orders.

There have always been misconceptions regarding the use of automation and robots for work. At Amazon the partnership between humans and robots is successful. The company has added more than 300,000 jobs inside its fulfilment centers since it started the use of robotics. The popular misconception is that robots will drive humans out of employment. However, the real case is very different. Humans still play the leading role inside those warehouses. Robots handle the more tedious tasks for them. This also helps manage workflow and reduce the pressure on the employees. Amazon is encouraging its employees to learn robotics. Associates working with the robots share feedback regularly with the technical teams on topics like how to improve workflow, safety and efficiency.

Perfect workflow requires careful choreography of movement and synchronization between humans and robots. At least 100,000 of orange colored drive units assist the Amazon associates inside the warehouses carrying small and large loads. These 300 pound weighing machines glide swiftly across the warehouse floors carrying loads of various sizes. 30 palletizers inside various warehouses lend extra robotic muscle. Their mechanized arms are used to identify and lift boxes from conveyor belts and then stacked on to pallets before shipping. The robot stow is the toughest weightlifter in the team. Six of these six ton weighing robo stows carry pallets of inventory to the yellow drive units on the higher floors. Everyday truckloads of inventory reach the warehouses and the robo stows add speed, strength and efficiency to inbound logistics.

Robots on the warehouse floors follow 2d barcodes to map the best route for carrying inventory. Using AI technology they can map out the most efficient route and carry inventory pods to the associate. Robotics drives efficiency across Amazon warehouses, ensures smooth workflow and maximized output. Amazon is encouraging its employees to enrol in robotics related courses in engineering and computer science. More than 500 associates are currently enrolled in such courses. The company reimburses up to 95% of tuition costs for employees who have worked at Amazon for longer than a year through its career choice program.

Amazon Robotics and its innovations are driving operational efficiency throughout Amazon company across the globe. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com and uses several methods in robotic technology for operations automation including autonomous mobile robots, sophisticated control software, language perception, power management, computer vision, depth sensing, machine learning, object recognition, and semantic understanding of commands. Amazon robotics is playing a major role in the growth of Amazon by driving innovation and bring cutting edge technology faster which enables Amazon to maintain efficiency across its global supply chain and set the bar higher in customer service.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.