The robots are here, and they’ve got your holiday package.
Amazon tonight is providing a new glimpse of the latest tech advances inside the giant warehouses that the company uses to send products to customers around the world.
In a newly released video, perfectly timed to drum up attention on one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, the company shows how robots are automating and transforming its fulfillment centers. Highlights include one of the largest robotic moving arms in the world, affectionately known as “Robo-Stow.”
The moving shelving systems in the video are Kiva robots. Amazon says it now has 15,000 of them operating in the U.S.
It’s a long way from Amazon’s first warehouse, where a small staff packaged and mailed out books, and Jeff Bezos had to be prodded to buy packing tables, as he tells the story.
Amazon has been headed in this direction for years, increasingly using robots to make its operations more efficient. The ultimate example, so far, is the company’s plan for drone delivery, which was last year’s big announcement on the night before Cyber Monday, on 60 Minutes. (The FAA is not enthused by the plan.)
Here is Amazon’s summary of the technology in what it’s describing as its eighth-generation fulfillment centers, 10 of which are currently operating in the U.S.
- Kiva robots of which Amazon currently has more than 15,000 operating across the U.S.;
- Robo-Stow, one of Earth’s largest robotic arms moving large quantities of inventory for customer order fulfillment;
- New vision systems enabling the unloading and receipt of an entire trailer of inventory in as little as 30 minutes instead of hours; and
- New, high-end graphically oriented computer systems for employees to use while fulfilling orders for customers.
Lest people think the robots are completely taking over, Amazon is careful to point out that it’s hiring 80,000 seasonal workers for the holiday rush this year, up 14 percent. If you’re keeping score, that’s still well ahead of the robot population.