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Robots could soon begin replacing more humans at Amazon warehouses


Each robot, which costs $1 million, could replace 24 workers

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon has begun utilizing robots to pack customer orders at a handful of fulfillment warehouses.

The $1 million machines, which work more efficiently than the humans who currently box up orders, could eventually replace more than 1,300 workers across the country, Reuters reported.

One robot could replace 24 workers at each facility. The giant online retailer currently has 55 warehouses across the U.S. with an average of 2,000 employees per facility. The company says it could recover the costs of one robot in less than two years, according to the report.

The robots are built by CMC Machinery of Italy.

How does it work?

The robots scan the items coming down a conveyor belt and then place the products in custom-sized boxes created by the machine. One machine has the ability to handle as many as 700 orders per hour without needing breaks, vacation time, or sick leave.

"We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network," an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement. "We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created."

In recent years, Amazon has tested the technology in a handful of facilities. Now it is considering expanding the program to dozens of warehouses across the country.

Would people lose their jobs to the robots?

The company claims it doesn't plan to lay off employees, according to one of the unnamed people who spoke to Reuters.

Instead, it would eventually stop refilling packing roles. Boxing several orders per minute over a 10-hour shift is difficult and leads to high turnover rates.

Employing robots to fulfill orders isn't about speeding up shipping for Prime loyalty customers, according to the report.

"It's truly about efficiency and savings," one of Reuters' sources said.

What else?

Walmart, Shutterfly, and other competing retailers already use CMC's technology for packaging orders.

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