Inside Amazon’s Robotic Warehouse

Robotic Warehouse

This post first featured in the Modern Retail Guide to Fulfilment November 2019. To read the full ebook click here, or scroll to the end of the page to view on page-turning software.

Robotic warehouses were once something people only dreamed of, however they are quickly becoming a reality, as operations reach new levels of efficiency. It is thought that in the coming years, more retail businesses will be able to utilise robots in their fulfilment processes, reaping the benefits.

In Amazon’s sorting center, robots work alongside humans to deliver their industry-leading fulfilment processes.

Once a person has scanned a product’s barcode, it is placed onto one of the hundreds of small, flat, orange robots, which have a conveyor belt on top of them. When the human presses the ‘send’ button, these robots will take themselves to the correct sorting zone for the item’s postcode, activating their conveyor belts to slide the package down the chute to the floor below, ready for loading onto delivery trucks. Once their “mission” is complete, each robot queues around the edge of the warehouse, waiting until a human scans a new package, before returning to be loaded and repeating the same process.

A cloud-based system determines the robots’ actions, deciding the most efficient path to follow to a chute, as well as ensuring robots do not crash. It also calls robots back to the docking station for charging when required, and decides when they are ready to go back to work.

These revelations in the world of logistics have enabled Amazon to deliver in the way that they do. The differences are obvious when compared to using people to pick parcels up, take them to the correct delivery chutes and place them on delivery pallets.

Humans are however, still required, and when used in collaboration, humans and robots are proving incredibly successful. Humans have unique attributes which robots do not, and visa versa. As an example, the robots’ conveyor belts engage if they sense a package slipping off the side, pulling it back on, however they may not notice if liquid from a leaking bottle has made the packaging soggy. This is where humans are able to quality control check to ensure a seamless process.

Robotic warehouses are used to speed up warehouse operations, reducing labour costs, the likelihood of injury and the risk of human error. As robots’ capabilities continue to advance, there is no doubt these processes will become even more streamlined and be implemented more commonly throughout retail fulfilment and warehousing processes.

Read the full Modern Retail Guide to Fulfilment November 2019 below.