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Amazon's warehouse robot army keeps getting bigger and bigger

Jyoti Mann   

Amazon's warehouse robot army keeps getting bigger and bigger
  • Amazon has more than doubled its warehouse robot fleet in the past three years.
  • The robots, with varying functions, are designed to boost efficiency and reduce strain on employees.

Amazon has ramped up its fleet of robots in recent years to boost its warehouse operations.

It's more than doubled the number of robots deployed in its fulfillment centers and warehouses in the last three years, from 350,000 in 2021 to 750,000 by last June, data from its blog posts show. The company also claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of industrial robots.

Amazon has a whole bunch of robots with unusual names that it uses in its operations. Robotic arms Robin and Sparrow were designed and manufactured at its Robotics Innovation Hub near Boston and help sort customer orders.

Then there are robots Proteus and Hercules, which move and look like the robot vacuum Roomba and shift items such as containers. Its robotic system called Sequoia lifts and sorts containers and eases the strain on employees to bend and stretch, Amazon Robotics' chief technologist Tye Brady told NBC's "Today."

The company also started testing Agility Robotics' humanoid robot called Digit in warehouses last year.

The expansion shows Amazon is bullish on robots, and it's a bet that seems to be paying off.

The company says Sequoia helps identify and store inventory 75% faster and reduces the time needed to process orders by up to a quarter. At its Robotics sites, recorded incident rates and lost-time incident rates (how often injuries occur at work and the rate it's resulted in time away from work) were down 15% and 18%, respectively, in 2022 compared with non-Robotics sites.

Robots have been talked up by robotics firms as a solution to help ease labor shortages and perform "the dull, the dirty, and the dangerous" tasks, as Apptronik CEO Jeff Cardenas previously told Business Insider.

Amazon's robot army is still significantly smaller than its employee total, which stood at 1.525 million full-time and part-time workers at the end of last year, per its annual report. However, the company has been cutting jobs in its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, this year.

Agility Robotics president Damion Shelton previously told BI that its robots are intended to complement and elevate the productivity of workers.

Stefano La Rovere, director of global robotics, mechatronics, and sustainable packaging at Amazon, told CNBC that "robots and technology help our employees … by reducing walking distance between assignments, by taking away repetitive motions, or helping them to lift heavy weights."

And despite fears that robots and technology could replace workers, the opposite has been true, La Rovere told the outlet: "Over the last years, more than 700 new categories of jobs have been created by the use of technology."

Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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