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Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:27 PM

Report: Amazon wants robots that can do the work of warehouse pickers

Source: Fast Company

10.11.1812:37 PM

BY CALE GUTHRIE WEISSMAN
1 MINUTE READ

By now, it’s well known that Amazon is always on the lookout for ways to cut costs. Over the last few years, as the e-commerce giant has grown into a true behemoth, the company has proven to shareholders its ability to provide returns. One way it does this is by investing in automation.

Amazon has implemented robots and other automating technologies in a variety of ways–especially in its warehouses. The company has tried to assuage fears of robots taking over human roles by saying that certain roles won’t be automated. One of those jobs is the “picker,” or someone who grabs items and places them in the areas to be shipped. But according to a new report in the Information, those jobs may no longer be safe. According to unnamed people with knowledge of the situation, Amazon is looking into robots that can do this picking action.

The company, in a statement to the original report, admitted that Amazon is always looking into new technologies to streamline the workflow, but that human employees are usually better at performing a variety of tasks that robots may not be able to do. Still, the spokesperson told the Information, “We need advanced technology and automation to meet customer demand—it’s just that simple.”

This may cause some worry. A few weeks ago, Amazon announced plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. For many warehouse workers, this meant they’d be given an instant wage. (Though, it should be mentioned, Amazon took away stock options and other benefits in exchange for this wage boost.) One thing workers don’t have is guaranteed hours, and if Amazon continues to invest in robots like these pickers, it’s likely that fewer hours will be allotted to workers.

Read more: https://www.fastcompany.com/90250018/report-amazon-wants-robots-that-can-do-the-work-of-warehouse-pickers

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Arrow 33 replies Author Time Post
Reply Report: Amazon wants robots that can do the work of warehouse pickers (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 11 OP
dalton99a Oct 11 #1
leftyladyfrommo Oct 11 #12
cstanleytech Oct 12 #18
hatrack Oct 19 #27
PoliticAverse Oct 11 #2
Wellstone ruled Oct 11 #3
appalachiablue Oct 11 #4
Zing Zing Zingbah Oct 11 #8
turbinetree Oct 11 #5
Racerdog1 Oct 11 #6
violetpastille Oct 11 #7
LisaM Oct 19 #23
violetpastille Oct 19 #24
LisaM Oct 19 #25
DeminPennswoods Oct 11 #10
joshcryer Oct 19 #29
randr Oct 11 #9
joshcryer Oct 19 #30
Trailrider1951 Oct 11 #11
Adrahil Oct 11 #14
Adrahil Oct 11 #13
Stonepounder Oct 12 #15
Adrahil Oct 12 #22
joshcryer Oct 19 #31
dembotoz Oct 12 #16
lindysalsagal Oct 12 #17
melm00se Oct 12 #19
lapfog_1 Oct 19 #28
joshcryer Oct 19 #33
Maxheader Oct 12 #20
Luciferous Oct 12 #21
lapfog_1 Oct 19 #26
joshcryer Oct 19 #32

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:29 PM

1. Robots don't need benefits or airconditioning

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 03:55 PM

12. And they never get tired. They can run 24 hours. nt

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #1)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 04:19 AM

18. Actually depending on the conditions they might need air conditioning to keep from overheating and

burning out plus if the robot dies on you or you lose power will have a giant paperweight until its repaired or the power is back on where as if a human workers calls out you can usually get another employee to come cover their shift.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #1)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:16 PM

27. They don't buy very much, or join Amazon Prime, though . . .

.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:38 PM

2. Of course they do. Amazon is already using lots of robots. "Picking" will eventually...

be eliminated as a job as will shelf stocking.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:42 PM

3. Thmeo King

Parts Distribution Centers are full Robotic except for whole Units and Motors and some Compressors. Order Picking and Parts restock is all robotic except for the whole assemblies which are pallets for fast retrieval by a Human with a fork truck. Used to be forty plus Warehouse men and Women,last time I was at that facility,five people left and they did packing and labeling.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:49 PM

4. Retail dystopia

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #4)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 02:36 PM

8. I've seen episodes of Black Mirror and Electric Dreams about automated factories gone awry. n/t

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 01:00 PM

5. Hey thats the ticket Jeff Bezo's POS give $15 and then turn right around and

take stock options away and other benefits, what a great fucking "guy" has over $368 billion in stock and other assets, and he could give everyone of his employees a $100,000.00 to the 566,000 employees which would come to $5.6 billion, chump change there Bezo's you POS and then they have there great fucking benefits cut, because after all humans are to much of a cost factor, like benefits, calling out sick from standing 8 hours a day, carpal tunnel, heavy lifting, that fucking made you rich, but some machine , all it needs is someone to program and replace....................

http://www.amazondelivers.jobs/about/benefits/

6 days off for holidays , whooping fucking big deal

And the best one resources to help with your well being, while a POS makes over $368 billion in assets, and the employees are still on food stamps, great libertarian hedge fund values right Bezos.

Hell Bezo's have the entire family of lets say three come and work for you making a grand total of $45.00 per hour in combine income, if they are full time........................maybe they can get one share of stock.................


And then the stock options of buying the stock at employee discount................yep that $15.00 dollars per hour is going to help them buy the dream of owning that stock that costs over $1700.00 to just help pad your 401K plan of bullshit for the employee, do you a C stock or D stock, that is of lowering value in the food chain of the 401K, that is at the whim of wall street and your hedge fund buddies :

$1,723.51 USD −31.74 (1.81%)

https://www.google.com/search?q=amazon+stock+price&oq=Amazon+stock+price&aqs=chrome.0.0l6.8822j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8







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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 01:04 PM

6. Let them use robots

People to program and keep them running make a jell of a lot more that what the folks there are getting paid. Work smarter not harder.

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Response to Racerdog1 (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 02:24 PM

7. In the future

People will have to be both smarter and harder.

High school kids are having a hard time choosing career paths that won't be automated by the time they finish college.

But for now, I'm puzzling over the economics of this. Supermarkets around me are pushing hard to keep people from coming into their stores, filling their carts and being checked out by humans. They want to shop for me and deliver, or I pick it up at the curb or they want me to give them my payment information ahead of time so that I can just scan as I go and sqwank out. They want me to be their "picker-robot" basically.

They want to deprogram me from expecting service.

But how are young people going to get their first jobs if "first jobs" are all automated, and if they can't who will take care of the people who are retired and collecting Social Security?
And if on both ends of the dependency scale, the young and the old aren't self sufficient then
how can the earners in the middle have enough money to buy any extra stuff at the grocery store?

This does not fit my user preferences. I want to opt out.

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Response to violetpastille (Reply #7)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 01:01 PM

23. And those jobs for young people - their first jobs (I worked at McDonald's and a bookstore)

really teach them a lot about people. To this day, I can quickly recognize someone else who's worked in a store, or at least with the public (bank teller, wait staff, etc.). They're more patient, they understand when something isn't going perfectly, they are better at waiting their turn....

I kind of think it should be a requirement that people spend a year working with the public! We'd probably all be a lot nicer to each other.

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Response to LisaM (Reply #23)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 01:25 PM

24. You said it!

The great thing about Mc Donald's is that it brings together people of all ages, education level and physical ability and equalizes us.

We all have expectations and we either perform or we won't be on the schedule next week and we all must work together like bees.


"If you have time to lean you have time to clean!"

It's humbling and at the same time for teenagers the first heady breath of adulthood.

(I love that Michelle Obama set Sasha up with a summer job in which she had to bus tables and ring up take out orders. Granted she was surrounded by SS personnel whist doing it. But she still was given the opportunity. Bless that family.)





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Response to violetpastille (Reply #24)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 01:35 PM

25. If you empty it, refill it!

If you spill it, clean it up!

I actually enjoyed working at McDonald's, I was a teenager, I saw lots of people, and met some nice co-workers. Luckily, the drive-in started just as I was moving on to a fulltime job - I don't think I would have liked that, they seem to drain the life out of the workers and I don't like things in my ears.

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Response to Racerdog1 (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 03:11 PM

10. Automation has been taking repetitive jobs for scores of years

These robots are going break down and need to be re-programmed. Humans will do that and be paid more money.

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Response to Racerdog1 (Reply #6)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:18 PM

29. Except the AI is now writing the code.

And machines in these environments will be able to do the work of tens of thousand of man hours before needing to be fixed.

A warehouse of robots will require 1/100th the labor input.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 03:03 PM

9. It is not up to Amazon to fix the problems caused by advanced automation

As the work force is reduced by automation a new economic/social platform needs to evolve. As paid people are replaced we need to ensure that the population can still purchase the goods produced by the robots.
A suggestion would be give a share of corporate profits to the benefit of the general population. The citizen give license to corporate entities and should be able to share in the profits. I would also love to see a maximum wage installed to do away with the rapid disparity being created by the current model.
The gross profits and obscene wealth of individuals would be spread out to the benefit of society at large.
The wealth came from the people and it should remain with them.

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Response to randr (Reply #9)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:18 PM

30. Indeed, the government needs to implement a basic income.

Or a negative income tax.

It's the only solution.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 03:50 PM

11. I've said it before and I'll say it again

The answer to the mechanization of labor and the resultant unemployment is: TAX ROBOT LABOR BY THE HOUR. Then use the tax money for a dedicated fund for a universal income for people. Human labor is taxable. Why not robot labor?

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Response to Trailrider1951 (Reply #11)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 04:38 PM

14. So, what exactly do you count as a robot?

WE have a lot of machines now. Where is the line between robot and not robot? I mean, is a CNC mill a robot?

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 04:37 PM

13. You can't order the sun not to set...

I get frustrated with folks who seem to think that it's possible to stop stuff like this.

Guess: technology allows the elimination of of unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Eventually, even some skilled jobs. That's gonna happen. There is no sense getting knickers in a twist over it. What we need to do is get those folks trained to do something the robots can't do (at least for now). And we need to work on ways of ensuring support for folks who cannot learn those skills.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #13)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 12:19 AM

15. While I agree with your sentiment, the another real problem is that we don't need as many

skilled folks as the unskilled folks that automation replaces.

When I was a HS student my first job was working at the local equivalent to McDonalds. If you wanted to work the register you had to a) memorize prices, b) be able to do multiplication of prices in your head, and c) figure the 5% sales tax in your head. Today you don't even need to know the prices, you just have to be able to push the pictures and a computer does everything else.

My first job working on computers was as a System Manager of a fair-sized installation in Tucson, AZ. If the system acted up, we called the vendor who sent a technician on-site to troubleshoot the hardware. We once had a problem where the local techs couldn't figure it out, so they called in regional, who also couldn't figure it out. So the vendor flew in a guy from New Jersey. Now a tech looks at your computer, runs a diagnostic routine and the computer tells him which part to replace.

I like the earlier suggestion that you tax a corporation based on the number of employees it would need without automation and use the proceeds to either retrain or pay a minimum wage (like Social Security) to those who couldn't be retrained or had chose not to work.

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Response to Stonepounder (Reply #15)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 08:50 AM

22. That's why we need to consider UBI... taxing corps in that way is impossible.

We've been automating for hundreds of years. Do you charge a textile manufacturer based on what it would take to make all that fabric using hand looms? How about a parts manufacturuer.... do you charge them based on what it would take to hand machine each part individually? Not possible.

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Response to Stonepounder (Reply #15)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:21 PM

31. Robot technician isn't necessarily high skilled, though.

And it's not necessarily high paid, either. The guys installing sensors in the Whole Foods are not super high paid dudes, they get paid good money, sure, but they're not PHDs. Specialization has broken everything down to an absurd degree that few people know how anything works anymore and we're getting to a point where even the code for the machines that are running the automation isn't being written by humans.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 01:53 AM

16. Like you couldn't see this coming???

Harder and harder to see things robotics will not be called upon to do.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 04:05 AM

17. Universal basic income. We're pretty much there, already.

Call it medicaid, ss, disability, whatever. You're not stopping the machines, as long as we're a profit-driven society.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 06:59 AM

19. Actually, it looks like Amazon might be behind the times


Project from 2012.


2013

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Response to melm00se (Reply #19)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:18 PM

28. Only that isn't what an Amazon "picker" does

they have automated the shelving... items come it to the fulfillment center with barcodes in pallets... those pallets are given to robotic shelving. When someone orders some stuff... the robotic shelving puts the item in a robot that delivers it to a "picking station"... that is where a human retrieves the item (like the person in the video, but much different in Amazon) and they scan the robot bin it came from, the item, and another robot bin where it and other items for the same order are being placed. When all of the items are placed in the new robot it scurries off to the packing station where another person wraps and packs them into a box for local delivery.

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Response to melm00se (Reply #19)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:28 PM

33. Look at the end of those videos where a person is packing a box.

They're trying to replace that person's job.

Automation through 90% of the supply chain has existed for decades.

It's the final 10% that they're trying to fix.

So that from manufacture to doorstep it's entirely automated. Very little human input.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 07:07 AM

20. Robots and material handling...


Been around a long time...

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 12, 2018, 08:09 AM

21. Sounds like robot repair technician might be a good field to get into

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:10 PM

26. My niece worked for a while (about 8 weeks) as an Amazon "picker"

and I would drive her to and from the "fulfillment center" because she didn't have a drivers license.

I wondered why they didn't have robots already that did the task... it is incredibly mind numbing and repetitive... not to mention you get graded on how fast you accomplish the task of moving packages from the delivery robot and putting them into the "order" robot where they are then taken someplace to be packaged for shipment.

All you do is scan bar codes (on the robot "shelves" and on the items ) and move them from one to another. A lot of stoop labor in a warehouse setting... standing all day long with few breaks.

RSI ( Repetitive Stress Injuries ) are common as the same movements are repeated over and over.

Correct placement in the "order" robot bins is essential... as is speed. If the items fall out of those bins ( the design of which almost ensures a certain amount of loss ) you are penalized as the robot must be shutdown while another worker (gleaner?) comes in and fixes the problem.

When she first described the work station and the work required... I was dumbfounded as to why this wasn't automated already.

In addition, almost any task that involved just the modicum of skill or individual contribution would be more fulfilling than being an Amazon Picker... and the wages paid were abysmal. Fast Food worker would be better ( unless allergic ).

She quit after 8 weeks and now works as a receptionist and insurance "biller" for a dentist... and makes more money, deals with patients, and is much happier.

Hopefully she goes back to college now.

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Response to lapfog_1 (Reply #26)

Fri Oct 19, 2018, 02:26 PM

32. It's because robots are not yet able to do fast object recognition.

Humans are still better at object recognition and fine motor control. Whenever you look at any industrial line that's highly automated (think pencil making factory), there's always a human at the packing end, because you can't afford to have a machine mess up even one minute. It would shut the whole line down.

But they are working very hard at solving this problem and the packers will be robots in 5 years or so. And all those jobs are gone. That's why the $15 wage thing was a joke.

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