Hours taken to pick orders reduced to minutes by using robots

Purchases made by consumers over the internet are on the rise. Internet store Amazon is responding to this trend and supports its personnel in servicing their growing customer base by deploying robots in its US warehouses. They work at superhuman speed in synergy with the warehouse personnel.

Previously the warehouse personnel had to walk up and down the rows of racking and manually pick the goods for the orders. The Kiva robots have now taken over this task, according to CNet: the robots retrieve the goods from the racks and take them to the order-pickers' workstations. The robots put the goods into the rows. A computer screen tells the order-picker which product and where to take it out of the rack. The goods are collected in boxes on conveyor belts. Once the order has been completed, the simple press of a button sends the box to the packaging and dispatching department.

This way it is possible to complete tasks within 15 minutes that previously took one and a half hours. Warehouse personnel can now deal with larger numbers of orders, while having more time for other tasks and can also concentrate better on their work. Nobody can work at anything like the speed of robots. Other tasks, including special packaging, are still carried out by people. People and robots work in perfect harmony in the Amazon warehouses. Moreover, Amazon encourages working together by printing the names of enthusiastic employees on the outer casing of the robots.

The compact, mobile Kiva robots weigh in at 150 kg and can shift loads weighing up to 340 kg.  They are fitted with communication sensors that prevent collisions occurring. Furthermore, a maximum of ten robots are allowed to work on an order simultaneously on the same floor level. In addition to picking orders, they can also be used for filling the racks.  This faster and more efficient way of working is important for the company, especially during the busy period at the end of each year.

In 2012 Amazon took over the robot manufacturer Kiva Systems and improved and integrated the technology into the existing systems in the warehouses. In the meantime, Kiva robots have been deployed at ten Amazon locations, totalling 15,000 in all. The deployment of robots at Amazon has not been at the expense of any jobs. The company has actually taken on more personnel since the robots were introduced.