Amazon recently announced it is implementing new robotics and artificial intelligence technology to improve warehouse operations, increase efficiency with delivery times, and prevent injuries. Said technology includes both mobile robots and robotic arms.
Video has recently circulated on the internet showing one of the robotic pieces of technology, Digit, which resembles a humanoid figure. The robot appears to possess similar capabilities to a typical warehouse worker, such as walking around, picking up boxes, and setting them down in a designated location.
While Amazon maintains this technological initiative is done in the interest of its employees, many have criticized the company for allegedly attempting to phase out labor and reduce headcount. Mytinformed claimed on X that “Amazon is replacing” its human workforce with the advent of this technology. The account gives further credit to former Democratic primary candidate Andrew Yang, who often discussed the implications of AI and technology 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 organizer within the UK trade union GMB, claimed the automative technology would lead to job losses. “Amazon’s automation is [a] head-first race to job losses. We’ve already seen hundreds of jobs disappear to it in fulfillment centres,” he said.
According to an official statement by Amazon, “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 shipping giant now operates with over 750,000 robots working alongside employees. The company claims the robots are “taking on highly repetitive tasks and freeing employees up to better deliver for our customers.” Many feel Amazon is being euphemistic when speaking of the technology as being utilized in “freeing up” employees. Instead, speculation is growing the robotic innovation could lead to serious job losses.
“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 said.
According to reports, the technology will be implemented across Amazon’s 300 robotics operations sites around the world, based on how it performs during this year’s high-demand holiday season. Additionally, Amazon has introduced another piece of robotic technology, Sequoia, which seeks to manage inventory up to 75% faster at fulfillment centers while reducing order processing time by 25%.
Note: The featured image is a screenshot from the embedded video.
"*" indicates required fields