The eCommerce behemoth wouldn’t be what it is today without its dedication to rapid and accurate order fulfillment. Therefore, Amazon robots play quite an important role in fulfillment operations.
Humans shouldn’t worry about becoming obsolete within the supply chain, however. Robots are an integral part of the future of work. They help to optimize operations, but humans are still a vital component in the system as a whole.
To make good on its promise to serve customers with fast and hassle-free shipping, Amazon has enlisted a variety of robots.
They work together with humans to improve customer experience in the most efficient way possible.
Amazon Robots at Fulfillment Centers
So far, 26 of the company’s 175 fulfillment centers use Amazon robots to help people pick, sort, pack, and transport packages. They are proving to be great assistants there, taking over the less desirable and more tedious tasks.
There is a lot of movement going on in fulfillment centers.
By transporting pallets through buildings and carrying inventory for shipments, Amazon robots make the lives of Amazon associates easier. They don’t have to lift or walk so much where robots are in place to do that for them.
They also have an easier time identifying items to complete customer orders because they don’t have to go look for them on the warehouse shelves. Robots bring the needed items to the packers, helping them work faster and more effectively while conserving their energy, too.
The people, furthermore, can then stay more focused on the tasks that need their higher thinking skills, like how to unpack liquids and handle spills.
How Do Amazon Robots Help?
Video Credit: Amazon News channel
Amazon robots aren’t like that whimsical Star Trek android, Data. They are much simpler:
- Palletizers – robotic arms with grippers that take totes of inventory off conveyor belts and stack them on pallets for stocking or shipping.
- Drive Units – flat-bed robots dubbed “Hercules” that transport pallets of inventory and “Pegasus” that move packages to delivery chutes through designated paths within fulfillment centers.
- Robo-Stow – robotic arms that lift pallets to different shelf levels or place them on drive units.
Amazon robots are – like Data – much appreciated and enjoyed by their human counterparts. They are also a great boon to the company, maximizing inventory and reducing shipping times to lower costs so customers can get the prices that keep them happy.
To illustrate, here’s one job that a drive unit does and how it helps everyone in the chain. A man scans a package and places it on a Pegasus unit. He pushes a button, sending the unit to a rectangular hole – a chute that matches the zip code on the package it carries.
The Pegasus’s conveyor belt engages, carefully rolling the package into the chute where it will be loaded for delivery, along with other packages bound for the same zip code. The unit then, returns to its queue, awaiting the next instruction, or pulls aside and docks to recharge as another unit takes its place.
Video Credit: NOVA PBS Official
Consider how much Amazon robots contribute not only to fulfillment center efficiency but to the well-being of the human workforce.
Before they came along, people would hurriedly grab packages off slides and check labels and rush them to the appropriate chutes. At the other ends of these chutes, people rushed back and forth to get the packages secured on pallets for delivery – all before things got clogged up with the hundreds of thousands of packages that the fulfillment center handles on an average day.
Plus. during a holiday rush with over a million packages to ship out, fulfillment center injuries rise to half of the national average.
With the addition of Amazon robots, these associates no longer spend their days in a frenzy of motion, constantly in a state of anxiety as they juggle accuracy and speed. They can stay in one place most of the time, allowing the Amazon robots to scurry around instead, reducing the chances that they will get hurt.
The robots whirl their way to their various destinations, equipped with sensors to avoid collisions, programmed to run straight along designated paths, and monitored from a safe distance to further reduce mishaps.
Chaos becomes to order and peace, and efficiency reaches new heights as the human workforce is free to calmly focus on their tasks, now at a level that they can soundly manage.
More On The Way
More Amazon robots are under development as the sorting and fulfillment centers look for better ways to optimize the flow of inventory coming in and packages going out.
New Amazon robots are tested to improve quality and speed as well as safety for packages and people. Efforts go into developing solutions for such issues as sorting errors and inventory damage. There is always someone continually monitoring the performance of the Amazon robots to spot problems and solve them or raise the issue to the development team for further analysis.
Last June, the company unveiled two new Amazon robots:
- Xanthus Sort Bot, and
- Xanthus Tote Mover
These are redesigns of the primary Amazon robots, developed by Kiva Systems after Amazon acquired it in 2012.
They were made to accelerate automation under the primary organizational theme of modularity. The same idea of having the ability to develop customized robotics supports the Amazon Robotics team in their goal of providing warehouses with the units they need, all from the basic system, and all to move product around fulfillment centers more efficiently.
Amazon robots are the future of work at the marketplace’s fulfillment centers. But they aren’t taking jobs away from people. Instead, they are an additional force that allows people to work safer, better, and happier.
Moreover, Amazon robots have created more jobs for people – IT staff to coordinate their movements, maintenance staff to see to their needs, and additional sorting and fulfillment center associates as orders are processed faster.
The basic idea behind Amazon robots is to make work better, aiming to produce a cohesive workforce that has all the potential to make the best use of each side’s skills and capabilities.
We cannot deny the advancement of technology and non-human systems. Adapting to robotics is the key, rather than fighting against it. There will always be something that a person can do better than a robot can, and there will always be something that a robot can do to make a person’s work easier.