Lead Forensics

Report reveals slow uptake of warehouse robotics

A report from Reuters has claimed that progress in replacing humans by machines is very slow.

The report looked at the example of Amazon as a company that uses machines in its warehouse. The e-retail giant has a new machine for packing items placed by workers on conveyor belts. The machine replaces human packers by building the packing box around the items. Figures from Amazon disclose that 1,300 jobs are being replaced, but this is a small proportion of the 196,000 Amazon workers in the USA.

Amazon says that it does not have to fire people and replace them with machines, but rather that it relies on workers leaving. Amazon is a growing company, and still has the largest workforce in the US.

The Reuters report notes that even if many warehouses install automatic box packing systems, human workers are still needed to load items on the conveyor belts.

The technology to replace humans does not exist. A warehouse equipment manufacturer is still needed to supply warehouses with manual handling equipment. Human workers with heavy duty warehouse trolleys pick items from shelves and take them to packing tables where they are packed by humans ready for dispatch.

James Vincent comments in the Verge:

“Amazon acknowledges that the technology to replace its warehouse workers doesn’t yet exist, and it says fully automated warehouses are at least a decade away. But it doesn’t deny that such “lights out” warehouses are what it’s building toward — the same as its competitors.”

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