Amazon's New Robots Pack 700 Boxes Per Hour
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Robots in Amazon's warehouses are taking on a new role of boxing up orders, and they do so much more efficiently and quickly than the human workers they replace.
As Reuters reports, Amazon has been experimenting with a new type of automated packaging robot that can 3D scan the goods included in an order as they travel down a conveyor belt. Those goods are then placed in a custom-size box the robot creates that's perfectly sized to fit.
Each robot packer can handle up to 700 orders per hour, and unlike their human counterparts, do not require regular breaks, never go home, and can't get sick. Worryingly for workers, one robot at a warehouse means 24 human roles are no longer required. If the same robot was rolled out to each of Amazon's U.S. facilities, that would be 1,300 roles removed.
Each robot packer costs $1 million plus running expenses, which sounds like a lot until you consider Amazon will recoup the money spent in just two years. Those savings come from employing fewer people, but also the efficiency and low maintenance costs such a machine enjoys.
The loss of roles in packing at Amazon does not necessarily mean a loss of jobs. An Amazon spokesperson commenting on the machines, said, "We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network ... We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created."
Earlier this month, Amazon's director of robotics fulfillment made it clear that full warehouse automation is nowhere near ready to happen. We'll apparently be enjoying warehouse roles for at least the next decade. Even after that it sounds as though the roles are simply changing rather than disappearing completely. What will the Amazon worker of 2029 be doing exactly, then?