Amazon recently unveiled its ambitious integration of cutting-edge robotics and artificial intelligence technology into its warehouse operations. This strategic move aims to not only enhance operational efficiency and expedite delivery times but also prioritize the safety and well-being of its workforce. This innovative technology arsenal encompasses both agile mobile robots and precision-driven robotic arms.
In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, a captivating video recently surfaced on the internet, showcasing one of these remarkable robotic marvels known as Digit. Remarkably humanoid in appearance, Digit exhibits an impressive range of capabilities akin to those of a seasoned warehouse employee. It effortlessly navigates its environment, adeptly picking up packages, and meticulously placing them in designated spots, showcasing the fusion of human-like dexterity and robotic precision.
While Amazon remains steadfast in its assertion that these technological advancements are designed with the best interests of its employees at heart, it hasn’t been immune to criticism. Some skeptics argue that the company’s adoption of this technology may be an attempt to gradually phase out human labor and reduce its workforce. Mytinformed, for instance, recently voiced the opinion that Amazon is embarking on a path to replace its human workforce with these technological innovations. This sentiment also aligns with the viewpoints expressed by former Democratic primary candidate Andrew Yang, who frequently addressed the profound impact of AI and automation on the labor market.
Amazon is replacing human workers with robots. Andrew Yang definitely called this. pic.twitter.com/0GrkcgFMDz
— Mythinformed (@MythinformedMKE) October 19, 2023
Stuart Richards, an advocate within the UK trade union GMB, has expressed concerns regarding the potential ramifications of this automated technology. He contends that Amazon’s rapid adoption of automation may indeed lead to job losses, asserting, ““Amazon’s automation is [a] head-first race to job losses. We’ve already seen hundreds of jobs disappear to it in fulfillment centres.”
An official statement by Amazon reads, “Broadening our partnership with Agility Robotics, we will begin testing their bipedal robot, Digit, for use in our operations. Agility is one of the companies Amazon invested in as part of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund.
“Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways. Its size and shape are well suited for buildings that are designed for humans, and we believe that there is a big opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution, such as Digit, which can work collaboratively with employees. Our initial use for this technology will be to help employees with tote recycling, a highly repetitive process of picking up and moving empty totes once inventory has been completely picked out of them.”
Per Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth currently employs over 750,000 robots in tandem with its human workforce. The company asserts that these robots are primarily tasked with handling highly repetitive functions, thus enabling employees to provide enhanced service to customers. However, there is a growing sentiment that Amazon’s description of this technology as “freeing up” employees may be seen as somewhat euphemistic, fueling speculation that these robotic advancements could potentially result in significant job displacements.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve rolled out hundreds of thousands of robotics systems while also creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs within our operations. This includes 700 categories of new job types, in skilled roles, which didn’t exist within the company beforehand. By equipping our employees with new technology and training them to develop new skills, we’re creating career paths and new and exciting ways for people to contribute here at Amazon,” the company stated.
Reports indicate that the adoption of this technology will extend to Amazon’s 300 robotics operations facilities worldwide, contingent on its performance during this year’s peak holiday season. Furthermore, Amazon has introduced another innovative robotic solution, Sequoia, designed to streamline inventory management processes, potentially achieving a remarkable 75% improvement in efficiency at fulfillment centers while concurrently slashing order processing times by 25%.