Exclusive: Amazon quietly rolls out robots to pack orders

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 13, 2019 - Duration: 02:05s

Exclusive: Amazon quietly rolls out robots to pack orders

Amazon has quietly rolled out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: boxing up customer orders.

Jane Lanhee Lee reports.


Exclusive: Amazon quietly rolls out robots to pack orders

This machine can pack 600 to 700 orders an hour.

Made by Italian firm CMC, a 3D sensor identifies items on a conveyor belt.

The machine then wraps them, builds boxes to size, and labels them.

It’s a job held by thousands of workers at Amazon Fulfillment warehouses around the world.

But Reuters has learned exclusively that Amazon has quietly rolled out these machines in a handful of facilities, part of its ambitious efforts to automate much of its business.

Reuters reporter Jeffrey Dastin, who packaged a few boxes at an Amazon warehouse, broke the story.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER JEFFREY DASTIN, SAYING: “It's not just going to wholesale fire people which could blow back in the company's face, because the company's engendered lots of goodwill and even tax breaks for lots of hires.

But rather it's going to allow its headcount to kind of lower, or thin, rather its ranks to thin, through attrition.

So it just won't we fill some of these packaging jobs when people leave them, and these are jobs with high turnover.

There's, you know, it's difficult work to pack often you know sitting or standing for 10 hours straight having a box, you know, multiple orders a minute.” Sources told Reuters Amazon is considering adding two of these machines at dozens of its fulfillment centers, removing 24 jobs at each location, and that could eliminate over 1300 roles in the U.S. over time.

These aren’t the only robots to come to Amazon warehouses.

In this fulfillment center in New Jersey these robots shuttle the goods to the workers so they don’t have to do this.

Still, Amazon told reporters visiting its Baltimore fulfillment center recently, that a fully robotic future is still far away.

And sources say the biggest challenge is finding a robotic hand that can pick up various items without breaking them.

That means these humans running around, stocking, picking, and moving things to the conveyor belt still have plenty of work ahead.

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