According to a recently published report, tech giant Amazon has unveiled new machines to automate a job that employs thousands — boxing up Amazon orders.
A new report from Reuters alleges that Amazon has begun including new technology in a number of warehouses in recent years. These new robots scan goods along a conveyor belt and moments later places and seals these goods in a box, ready to ship to an Amazon customer. Amazon is reportedly considering installing these systems at dozens of warehouses, removing at least 24 jobs at each warehouse.
Reuters reports that these warehouses usually employ up to 2,000 people, with the implementation of this new system Amazon could cut as many as 1,300 jobs across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers. The system reportedly costs around $1 million and has added operational expenses, but this cost could be recouped within two years of installing the system. Amazon is reportedly pushing to reduce labor and boost profits at its firm via automation of many warehouse tasks.
Amazon is famous for its drive to automate as many parts of its business as possible, whether pricing goods or transporting items in its warehouses. But the company is in a precarious position as it considers replacing jobs that have won it subsidies and public goodwill.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
Amazon last month downplayed its automation efforts to press visiting its Baltimore fulfillment center, saying a fully robotic future was far off. Its employee base has grown to become one of the largest in the United States, as the company opened new warehouses and raised wages to attract staff in a tight labor market.
A key to its goal of a leaner workforce is attrition, one of the sources said. Rather than lay off workers, the person said, the world’s largest online retailer will one day refrain from refilling packing roles. Those have high turnover because boxing multiple orders per minute over 10 hours is taxing work. At the same time, employees that stay with the company can be trained to take up more technical roles.
The new machines, known as the CartonWrap from Italian firm CMC Srl, pack much faster than humans. They crank out 600 to 700 boxes per hour, or four to five times the rate of a human packer, the sources said. The machines require one person to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue and a technician to fix jams on occasion.
While Amazon seeks to remove workers from its warehouses, it is reportedly attempting to incentivize contracted delivery drivers to quit their jobs and work at Amazon full time. Amazon is reportedly promising to help part-time delivery drivers start their own business delivering Amazon packages if they choose to work with the firm on a full-time basis. This new offer is being rolled out as the firm attempts to speed up its shipping service to Prime customers, hoping to introduce one-day shipping.
Amazon promises to cover up to $10,000 in startup costs for employees that are accepted into its new program and promise to start an Amazon delivery service; Amazon is also offering these employees three months worth of their salary up front. This offer has been made available to both part-time and full-time Amazon employees including the warehouse workers who may soon become obsolete with the introduction of Amazon’s new packing system.
This program is part of Amazon’s plans to bring more deliveries in-house rather than relying on delivery services such as UPS and the US Post Office. Contractors that participate in this new program can lease vans from Amazon with blue Amazon branding displayed across them. 200 Amazon delivery businesses have reportedly been created since the program launched last June according to Amazon’s vice president of global delivery services, John Felton.