Robots are hard at work this holiday season in the warehouses and fulfillment centers of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). In time for the holiday shopping frenzy, the company unveiled its eighth generation fulfillment centers (where customer orders are processed) which now use a variety of gadgets including Kiva robots, vision systems, and a whole host of other software and mechanical innovations that would make Santa and his elves weep. Amazon is currently operating 10 of these new centers in the United States.
Amazon gets a staggering number of orders throughout the year, and even more during the winter holiday season. Shipping companies have been known to buckle under such pressure, but Amazon expects to tackle the 2014 holiday challenge flawlessly with the help of all of those new robots. There are 15,000 of the Kiva robots (the little machines you see in the video) to shuttle racks of smaller products around the warehouse, while the impressively named Robo-Stow move the larger items. Incidentally, Robo-Stow is one of the largest robotic arms on Earth. Moreover, the new vision-based systems help human workers unload trailers full of stock in just 30 minutes, instead of taking multiple hours to do it the old fashioned way.
So far, human employees still play an important role in Amazon’s order fulfillment process. In fact, the company has announced that it will hire 80,000 seasonal employees to fulfill customer orders this holiday, and that some of those employees will be kept on in regular, full-time roles after the seasonal rush. Sadly, however, there are still no reports of Amazon employing reindeer.
Image: A human Amazon employee picks items from a Kiva robot (Business Wire)