THE AMAZON EFFECT: HOW ROBOTS ARE CHANGING WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION

THE AMAZON EFFECT: HOW ROBOTS ARE CHANGING WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION

It’s no secret that Amazon has been in the spotlight lately. Between their connected-home innovations such as Alexa, the recent purchase of Whole Foods, and automated technologies changing the distribution landscape forever, this is one company that’s cornered the market on inter-connectivity.

In the warehouse, this means that robots are playing a greater role in product sorting, packaging, and distribution. Amazon fulfillment centers are known to bridge the gap between robot and human workers. Miles of conveyor systems run throughout these facilities, getting materials wherever they need to go. Computers monitor and control much of the process, ensuring speed and efficiency.

But while there may not seem to be much room for human workers, they’re still a crucial element in the process. Though technology is making huge strides in computer vision and the ability to grasp objects, they still can’t compete with humans’ intuitive knowledge when it comes to identifying hard-to-spot items in a bin, and knowing how best to grasp each item without damaging or dropping it. Robots still lack the dexterity and poise of a human hand.

So while robots can certainly boost the productivity of a warehouse, they still rely on human help for more precise tasks. And with the growing popularity of Amazon, that leaves room for many, many human workers.

That being said, robots also have advantages when it comes to space savings and finding the most optimal routes within a warehouse. Many robots are much smaller than people, allowing them to fit in areas where other workers cannot. They can also analyze the floorplan of a space to determine which paths will get them to each destination quickest. In this way, the robots greatly improve the flexibility of the workspace, adding to shorter lead times.

Another way automation is improving flexibility within the workplace is by incorporating more modular structures, including conveyance systems. We mentioned earlier how integral conveyors are in moving products from one area to another. But as a warehouse changes to accommodate new or more products, the conveyors used to move them need to change, too. For this reason, we’re seeing more modular conveyance units that can be modified over time to adapt to changing floorplans.

Overall, the warehouse is seeing an increasing need for technological advancement and flexibility. Amazon is definitely leading the charge, but soon every warehouse and distribution center will need to adapt to remain competitive.

Has your warehouse already implemented some of these high-tech changes? We’d love to see what you’ve done! Show us some pictures on Twitter, and we’ll share them with our followers!