Amazon makes use of robots to increase its productivity. There are a lot of ways in which robots are helping the employees at Amazon to deliver their responsibilities faster.
The human-machine relationship is evolving and impacting our daily life in great ways. Robots, automation, and AI have become an inseparable part of businesses and are helping them to increase their productivity and efficiency. But are they controlling humans? Keep on reading this technology blog to find out what roles robots are playing at the big giant- Amazon.
At Amazon fulfillment centers, several kinds of robots are employed.
Palletizers (a machine that automatically sorts, transfers, and stacks cases of goods onto a pallet; usually at the finish of a manufacturing line) employed at Amazon are robotic arms with grippers that identify and grab totes from conveyor belts and stack them for shipping or stowing.
The Robo-stow is another robotic arm deployed by Amazon, which lifts pallets of inventory to take them to drive units so that they can be transferred to their next destination or places them at different levels in fulfillment centers.
The drive unit is also a robot that is used to transport packages around facilities. One such drive unit robot is named Bert, it is under experiment as one of Amazon’s first AMRs- autonomous mobile robots. It is specially designed to navigate its way safely through the company’s facilities without any human intervention. In the future, Bert can be called easily by a worker to help them carry heavy loads from one location to another. This is sure to reduce human wear and tear and increase the capacity at which tasks can be completed.
Right now, a total of 100,000 drive units and six Robo-stows, as well as 30 palletizers, are currently being used by Amazon throughout the world.
Some of the robots move packages and empty totes through Amazon’s warehouses using standardized carts. Such a robot nicknamed Scooter, named in honor of the geeky backstage manager on “The Muppet Show,” is being trained to move standardized carts through Amazon’s fulfillment centers on its own. Scooter would be in operation in at least one of its facilities this year.
The robot who can fire people
The press reported a story in which an employee named Stephen Normandin was fired by a robot through an automated email, after which Normandin had no one to complain to. The email stated that he did not fulfill Amazon’s expectations anymore. This was an algorithm-based firing, which did not take into account the human condition and the current state of the outside world. Stephen was not able to complete his deliveries due to locked apartments that were out of his control.
In the event of a disaster, such as the pandemic, machines are unable to understand the inconvenience of locked buildings or vacated offices when tracking delivery times because, even though machines are intelligent, they will never be as flexible and compassionate as humans.
Machines at Amazon often hire, rate, and fire millions of employees with little or no human oversight. Amazon is such a big company with over a million employees that finds it easier to use robots and software to manage and rate workers in its warehouses, contract drivers, independent delivery companies, and even the performance of its office employees instead of the HR team because it saves costs and makes the process quicker.
While this is a great decision in some cases because it increases productivity by keeping in check the employees who are being lazy at work and not adding any value to the company, it can also make the company lose some good employees who were not able to fulfill some tasks because of reasons beyond the understanding of AI.
It is a double-edged sword that will yield results for the company in the long run, as it will increase efficiency, which is much needed in this fast-paced world, and also help the company satisfy its ever-increasing customer base. It might at times overlook employees such as Normandin, who was unable to fulfill his end of the bargain despite his best efforts, not due to any fault of his own but due to the restrictions the pandemic has placed on us.
Robots when used as a partner of the human employees to help them perform better is what seems better for the employees but having robots as their bosses is the worst-case scenario as AI is not replacing them but controlling them. AI surely increases efficiency and helps businesses grow in many ways. It also speeds up the process of performing tasks. But the fear that AI might take over human beings or even control their actions may come true if more and more companies start approaching the ‘Robotic Boss’ system.