Amazon rolls out robot army to help out as holidays approach

The company has built an army of robots that will drive around its warehouses, picking up items for human workers to send out to customers

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The Independent Tech

Amazon has hired more than 15,000 new staff — an army of robots that will help out the company as the Christmas rush approaches.

The company bought robot maker Kiva Systems for around £500 million in 2012. It showed off the results — the collection of small, 320-pound, orange-coloured robots — to the media at the weekend, ahead of the Cyber Monday rush.

The company hopes that it will keep costs down, by slashing operating costs by about one-fifth, as well as avoid the embarrassing situations of the past, where the company had to give out refunds and gift cards after items failed to arrive.

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Conveyor belts carry goods at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, ahead of the Christmas rush, in Tracy, California

But in the short term Amazon has spent plenty of cash on the robots — they cost around $46 million (£29 million) to install in its Florida warehouse, Reuters said, and they are working in warehouses in California, Texas, New Jersey and Washington as well.

 

The robots let the company store about 50% items, and drive around using markings on the floor. Because they take up less space, the company can use more of the floor space for items.

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Workers prepare outgoing shipments at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, ahead of the Christmas rush

When an Amazon worker asks for an item, the robots scurry around the warehouse and bring it back to them ready for dispatch. That has cut the process down from an average of 90 minutes to as little as 13 minutes now.

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