Fully automated warehouses buzzing with robots efficiently shipping orders out to customers may be what is envisioned, but that won’t soon be reality. Amazon.com Inc. says people still have superior cognitive abilities, and current technology simply has its limits.
The e-commerce giant that has led advances in quickly getting goods in people’s hands admits warehouse jobs won’t soon be disappearing. The technology is at least 10 years away that would pave the path to processing a single order that today is picked by a warehouse worker.
Robots can’t pick a single product from a bin now without damaging other products or inadvertently picking up more than one item. And, although Amazon is continuing to look for technologies that will further automate steps, the Seattle-based company’s Scott Anderson, director of Amazon Robotics Fulfillment, told reporters on a tour of its facility in Baltimore this week, “In the current form, the technology is very limited. The technology is very far from the fully automated workstation that we would need.”
Robots aren’t used in the fresh food departments, Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry, either. Though, they have been deployed in warehouses that primarily handle general merchandise ranging from lamps and clothing to kayaks and bikes.
Amazon operates 110 warehouses across the U.S, as well as 45 sorting centers and roughly 50 delivery stations. The online retailer has 125,000 full-time warehouse workers nationally.
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