Over the past few years, Amazon has quietly begun introducing new technology in its warehouses that allows machines to self-pack customer orders.
The technology, according to an exclusive report from Reuters, scans the dimensions of items that move through the facilities’ conveyor belts and boxes them up for shipment — a job held by thousands of the e-commerce company’s workers.
As automation continues to transform the workplace, Amazon employees may soon be faced with the reality that the tech giant they work for is in the midst of rolling out technology that poses a significant threat to their livelihoods.
According to the Reuters report, which cited two sources who worked on the project, the Seattle-based firm is considering the installation of two machines at dozens of warehouses, costing a minimum of 24 jobs at each facility.
With the average facility employing upwards of 2,000 workers, the move could effectively trim more than 1,300 jobs across Amazon’s 55 fulfillment centers in the United States. The Reuters sources added that the company expects to recoup the expenses in just under two years at $1 million per machine.
Amazon has long been making big bets on automation as it seeks to cement its dominance in the retail space. The company has been building domestic robots under the project name Vesta, overseen by the same executive who spearheads Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division that also created its Echo device. Additionally, it has deployed more robots following its acquisition of mobile robotics firm Kiva Systems in 2012 as well as developed cutting-edge concepts such as its Prime Air drones.
Many sectors of the United States economy are at a risk of disruption as robots get smarter and technology sees major improvements. According to a January report from Washington, D.C.-based think tank Brookings Institution, automation risk could be as high as 59 percent in manufacturing and 58 percent in transportation and warehousing. Retail sales jobs, which have already been hit, could be further threatened by the advancement of self-checkout kiosks and cashier-free stores similar to Amazon Go.
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