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Automation Of Warehouses Still A Decade Away, Says Amazon’s Robotics Chief

Automation Of Warehouses Still A Decade Away, Says Amazon’s Robotics Chief

Current tech is not ready for complete automation, Amazon said

Robots are not used in warehouses which handle fresh food

Amazon has faced flak for poor working conditions at its warehouses

Amazon Inc has reportedly said that the technology for running a fully automated warehouse is at least a decade away. The comments were made by Anderson during a tour of Amazon’s Baltimore warehouse for reporters on Tuesday.  

The superior cognitive abilities of humans and limitation of current technologies have been cited as the reason by Scott Anderson, director of Amazon robotics fulfilment, Reuters reported.

“The technology is at least 10 years away from fully automating the processing of a single order picked by a worker inside a warehouse,” Anderson said.

Anderson further added that “In the current form, the technology is very limited. The technology is very far from the fully automated workstation that we would need.”

No robots are employed in warehouses which handle fresh food, Derek Jones, who oversees Amazon’s fresh food offerings like Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry told Reuters. “Just imagine if you want bananas. I want my bananas to be firm, others like their bananas to be ripe. How do you get a robot to choose that?” he said.

Amazon has been embroiled in criticism by labour groups alleging poor working conditions and increasing reliance on technology rendering people out of jobs. In November last year, Amazon raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the US to soothe critics and employees alike.

The Verge, in April, reported that Amazon allegedly fires employees who don’t move “fast enough” and do not meet the set mark. The same report mentioned that Amazon let go hundreds of employees at a single facility between August 2017 and September 2018 citing inefficiency.

Just in the United States, Amazon has 110 warehouses, employing around 125K full-time employees. Apart from this, Amazon also has 45 sorting centres and about 50 delivery stations in the country.

Meanwhile in India, Walmart-owned Flipkart, Amazon’s main rival in India, ] introduced robots which they call as ‘automatic guided vehicles’ (AGVs). Introduced earlier this year,  these robots sort 4,500 products every hour as opposed to 500 sorted by a human. With a fleet of 110 such AGVs Flipkart is one example of the rise of automation in India.