Amazon has unveiled two innovative robotic systems, Sequoia and Digit, aimed at boosting workplace safety and enhancing delivery speeds for customers.
Amazon’s technological progression in robotics is evident with over 750,000 robots currently in collaboration with their employees. These robotic assistants handle repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus more on serving customers effectively. In line with these advancements, Amazon has introduced Sequoia, its latest robotic system, now operational at a fulfilment centre in Houston, Texas.
Sequoia revolutionises inventory management at Amazon’s facilities, promising not only enhanced delivery speed and precision but also elevated workplace safety. With Sequoia’s capabilities, inventory at fulfilment centres can be registered and stored up to 75% quicker, resulting in faster listing on Amazon.com. This benefits both the sellers and buyers. Additionally, it reduces order processing time at fulfilment centres by up to 25%, enhancing shipping reliability and widening the offering for Same-Day or Next-Day shipping.
Integrated Robotics for Efficiency and Safety
Built on extensive research and development, Sequoia amalgamates various robotic systems to categorise inventory into totes. This integration includes mobile robots, gantry systems, robotic arms, and an ergonomic workstation for employees. Mobile robots facilitate inventory transportation to a gantry, a structure equipped to either restock or direct totes to employees for customer order fulfilment.
A salient feature of this system is the ergonomic design of the workstation. Positioned between mid-thigh and mid-chest height, it eliminates the need for employees to consistently reach overhead or stoop, thereby decreasing the likelihood of workplace injuries.
Following the order fulfilment, inventory consolidation is paramount to maximise tote utility and streamline site storage. Here, another robotic arm, Sparrow, is employed to repetitively consolidate inventory, ensuring totes are filled before being stored.
Data from 2022 indicates that Amazon Robotics sites recorded 15% and 18% lower rates in recordable incidents and lost-time incidents respectively, compared to non-robotics sites. Sequoia is set to perpetuate this promising trajectory.
Novel Approaches to Automation
Beyond Sequoia, Amazon Robotics continues its journey of innovation. Trials are currently underway for mobile manipulator solutions at their robotics research and development location south of Seattle. These robots, while in motion, are capable of grasping and handling items.
In collaboration with Agility Robotics, Amazon has initiated tests on the bipedal robot, Digit. A beneficiary of Amazon’s Industrial Innovation Fund, Agility Robotics’ Digit can manoeuvre and manipulate items in unique ways, especially in human-centric environments. The preliminary application of this technology is envisioned to assist employees in the process of tote recycling.
Collaborative Robotics and the Future of Work at Amazon
Central to Amazon’s approach is the collaborative nature of robotics, emphasising employee support. Over the past decade, the company has introduced countless robotic systems. Concurrently, Amazon has also created numerous new job roles within its operations, with 700 distinct skilled role categories that previously didn’t exist. By introducing employees to cutting-edge technology and fostering skill development, Amazon is carving diverse career trajectories.
Ultimately, Amazon remains devoted to technology that elevates its employees’ work experiences, ensuring their roles are safer, simpler, and less monotonous. This commitment allows employees to innovate further in serving and satisfying Amazon’s vast customer base.