Amazon.com Inc., the world’s leading e-commerce giant, is pushing the boundaries of automation in its vast network of warehouses by introducing two groundbreaking technologies. In a recent blog post, the company revealed that it is currently experimenting with a humanoid robot and an inventory-sorting technology to enhance operational efficiency.
The humanoid robot, affectionately named “Digit,” was developed by Agility Robotics Inc. This bipedal robot exhibits remarkable dexterity, as it can squat, bend, and manipulate objects using hand-like clasps. Initially, Digit’s role will be to assist employees in consolidating totes that have been emptied of their contents. Amazon took a significant step toward this initiative when it invested in Agility Robotics last year.
While Amazon has been using robots in its warehouses for over a decade, primarily for transporting inventory to human workers, the company is now making strides toward a new warehousing paradigm. The traditional method of manually stocking inventory onto mesh shelving is evolving into a container-based storage system. This transformation accommodates the seamless integration of robotic arms and other automated technologies for sorting and selecting items.
Amazon cited significant safety improvements within Amazon Robotics sites. In 2022, these sites recorded a 15% reduction in recordable incident rates and an 18% drop in lost-time incident rates compared to non-robotics sites.
In addition to the introduction of Digit, Amazon is experimenting with “Sequoia,” an advanced technology designed to identify and sort inventory items into containers. These containers are then accessed by employees who retrieve items ordered by customers. For any remaining products, Amazon employs a robotic arm known as “Sparrow,” which was unveiled last year. According to Amazon, the Sequoia system is already operational in a Houston warehouse and has the potential to reduce order processing times by as much as 25%.
This technological shift in Amazon’s warehousing process brings the operation closer to an assembly line model, in contrast to the traditional approach where employees manually search for items on shelves.
Amazon is aligning these automation efforts with a focus on enhancing employee safety. By automating repetitive tasks that often lead to injuries, Amazon aims to improve workplace safety and employee well-being.
Amazon’s continued investment in robotics and automation technology underscores its commitment to delivering products to customers more efficiently and safely as it strives to stay ahead in the fiercely competitive e-commerce landscape.
The deployment of these innovative technologies is poised to revolutionize the warehousing industry and promises to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of logistics and e-commerce.