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March 4, 2024
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Collaborative Robotics: Amazon’s Approach to Automation

Image Commercially Licensed from: Depositphotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: Depositphotos

The rise of e-commerce has revolutionized the way people shop, making it possible to have almost anything delivered to your doorstep with just a few clicks. Leading the charge is Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, which has taken convenience to the next level with same-day and next-day delivery options. However, Amazon’s success is not solely down to its vast selection and speedy delivery options. The company has also been investing in cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to optimize logistics, determine the best location for inventory placement, and automate repetitive tasks.

Using AI to Figure Out Where to Place Inventory

Stefano Perego, the Vice President of Customer Fulfilment and Global Ops Services for North America and Europe at Amazon, has revealed how the company uses AI to optimize logistics. The company is using AI in transportation to plan and map routes, taking into account variables like traffic and weather. Another key area where AI is being utilized is helping customers search for the right products.

However, Amazon’s main focus is on using AI to determine the best location for inventory placement. This is a complex problem due to Amazon’s vast selection, which requires placing inventory in a way that reduces the distance to fulfill customers’ orders and increases the speed of delivery. 

Currently, Amazon has been working on a “regionalization” effort. This allows Amazon to ship products to customers from the warehouses nearest to their location. However, this effort requires specific technology that can analyze data and patterns to predict product demand in certain locations.

This is where AI comes in handy, as it can predict demand and help Amazon make same-day or next-day deliveries, similar to what’s being offered in Amazon’s Prime subscription service. According to Perego, the regionalization efforts are progressing well. In fact, more than 74 percent of products ordered by customers in the United States are now coming from fulfillment centers within their region.

Using Robotics to Help with Repetitive Tasks

Amazon has been investing in robotics for years, and it has paid off in its fulfillment centers. The online retailer is using robotics to automate repetitive tasks, such as lifting heavy packages, and increase efficiency. Amazon has developed a range of autonomous systems, from small robots that transport products around warehouses to robotic arms that delicately handle items. The company claims that robotics handles roughly 75 percent of all Amazon customer orders.

Impact of AI and Robotics on Jobs

The rise of robotics and AI has sparked a debate over how it will impact the job market. A report by Goldman Sachs earlier this year suggested that automation could affect 300 million jobs worldwide. However, Perego believes that automation and AI will not necessarily eliminate jobs but rather transform them.

According to Perego, automation should be seen more as “collaborative robotics.” This highlights how Amazon envisions humans and technology working alongside each other rather than against each other.

As automation and AI continue to advance, Perego believes that the type of work employees will perform in fulfillment centers will evolve toward high-judgment tasks. Meanwhile, robotics will take over heavy lifting and repetitive tasks. This shift will enable workers to focus on tasks that require their unique abilities while robots streamline operations and increase efficiency. Ultimately, this collaboration will create a safer and more productive work environment for all.

Final Thoughts

Amazon’s implementation of AI and robotics has transformed the online shopping experience, resulting in faster and more efficient deliveries. By optimizing logistics with AI and automating repetitive tasks with robotics, Amazon has not only increased productivity but also created a safer work environment for employees. The impact of these technologies on jobs has been a topic of debate, but Amazon sees them as collaborative tools that will transform job roles rather than eliminate them. As Amazon continues to invest in these technologies, it will be fascinating to observe how they revolutionize online shopping and the job market.

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