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article imageAmazon's new robots pushing employees toward package deliveries

By Karen Graham     May 13, 2019 in Business
Robots in Amazon's warehouses are taking on a new role of boxing up orders, which they do faster and more efficiently than humans. However, some employees they replace can take advantage of Amazon's program to start a delivery business.
Amazon has been experimenting with a new type of automated packaging robot is selected warehouses 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, according to PC Magazine.
Reuters talked to two people who worked on the project which previously has gone unreported. Each robot packer can handle 700 items an hour, and unlike humans, don't require a lunch or bathroom break, never have to go home and never get sick. One robot in a warehouse can replace 24 human jobs.
According to the two people who spoke with Reuters, Amazon is looking at installing two of the packaging robots in dozens of warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.
This would mean more than 1,300 job cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory.
Tye Brady  chief technologist for Amazon Robotics  has worked in the field for three decades
Tye Brady, chief technologist for Amazon Robotics, has worked in the field for three decades
Johannes EISELE, AFP/File
Amazon's push for speed and efficiency
Amazon, now one of the nation's biggest employers, is well known for its push to automate as many parts of its business as possible, whether in pricing goods or transporting items in its warehouses. This places the company in a position where too much automation, all at once, will trample on the goodwill it has created with the public.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
The role of filling orders is taxing work, requiring the boxing of multiple orders per minute over 10 hours. Amazon is looking at a leaner workforce through attrition with employees staying with the company being trained to take up more technical roles.
Earlier this month, Amazon's director of robotics fulfillment made it clear that full warehouse automation is nowhere near ready to happen, downplaying the hype over robots taking jobs from a human workforce.
Amazon now counts more than 25 robotic centers like the one at Staten Island  which chief technologi...
Amazon now counts more than 25 robotic centers like the one at Staten Island, which chief technologist for Amazon Robotics Tye Brady says have changed the way the company operates
Johannes EISELE, AFP/File
The robotic packaging machines are called CartonWrap and come from an Italian firm CMC Srl. They are five times faster than a human and can crank out 600 to 700 packages an hour. Only one person is needed to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue and a technician to fix jams on occasion.
Another machine Amazon is testing is called "SmartPac" mails items in patented envelopes. One of the two people told Reuters that Amazon using these technologies will be able to automate a majority of its human packers. "Five rows of workers at a facility can turn into two, supplemented by two CMC machines and one SmartPac," the person said.
Faster delivery means more delivery drivers
On Monday, according to CTV News Canada, Amazon announced that in order to get packages to consumers faster, it has turned to its employees with a proposition - Quit your job and we’ll help you start a business delivering Amazon packages.
The offer follows Amazon's recent announcement making one-day shipping the standard for all Amazon Prime members.
Amazon claims it will offer $10,000 in startup costs for anyone who is accepted into the program and quits their job. Amazon will also pay the selected employees three months’ worth of their salary. The offer is open to most part-time and full-time Amazon employees, with the exception of Whole Foods employees, according to the Associated Press.
This latest incentive for employees is apart of a program Amazon started about a year ago that lets anyone apply to launch an independent Amazon delivery business. And it is a way that Amazon can more closely control its own deliveries instead of relying on UPS, the post office or other delivery companies.
For only $10,000, entrepreneurs will be able to open and manage their own delivery service handling Amazon packages. They will not be employees of Amazon but will be able to lease the vans and buy Amazon uniforms for drivers and get support from Amazon to grow their business.
More about Amazon, Robots, startup delivery companies, tighter control, Technology
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