Amazon's Global Robotic Workforce of 7,50,000 Robots, Job Losses and How Amazon Addressing It

Amazon recently informed that it employs over 750,000 robots in its operations and, out of these number 400,000 robots were added in the last two years. These robots work collaboratively with employees, handling highly repetitive tasks to improve efficiency, safety, and delivery speed. Amazon's continued investment in robotics technology indicates a significant shift towards automated processes in the company's operations.

Amazon's robots perform a variety of tasks aimed at improving efficiency and safety within their operations which include moving and organizing products within Amazon's fulfillment centers, picking and packing items to fulfill customer orders, sorting packages for delivery, and to transport oversized and unwieldy items through the fulfillment center, navigating around obstacles and working alongside human associate.

Amazon has been at the forefront of incorporating robotics into its operations, and here's a brief overview of the latest advancements:

An image of the new robotic solution —Sequoia — that will support workplace safety and help Amazon deliver to customers faster

Sequoia and Digit: These are new robotic solutions introduced to assist employees and expedite deliveries. Sequoia is designed to improve inventory management, allowing Amazon to store and process inventory up to 75% faster.

Digit Robot
An image of the bi-pedal robot — Digit — working alongside an Amazon employee
Titan Robot
An image of Amazon's new Titan robot. It's blue, plate-like robot with black details, including a camera on the front, a name plate that says "T333333" and a large, circular plate on top.

Titan: A new mobile robot capable of lifting up to 2,500 pounds, Titan is used for moving heavy and bulky items within fulfillment centers, enhancing safety and operational efficiency.

Proteus: Amazon's first autonomous mobile robot, which can navigate through facilities using advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology.

These robots are part of Amazon's ongoing efforts to improve workplace safety and efficiency while also ensuring faster delivery for customers.

Job Displacement Due to Robots & Automation

Regarding job displacement, Amazon recently announced the elimination of over 18,000 jobs, which is the largest layoff in the company's history. These layoffs mostly affected administrative roles and are part of a broader trend of job cuts across the tech industry. While Amazon maintains that its investment in robotics and automation has not impacted its human workforce negatively, and claims to have increased both hourly pay and the number of people working for the company in addition to the robots, there are concerns about the long-term implications of automation on employment.

An analysis suggests that despite Amazon's growth and hiring numbers, the overall retail job losses that it helped cause will still result in a net decline of 24,000 jobs at Amazon and related retail companies. This reflects the complex relationship between automation, job creation, and job displacement, highlighting the need for strategies to manage the transition for workers whose jobs are at risk due to automation.

How Amazon is addressing the impact of automation on its workforce?

Amazon's "Hands off the Wheel" program aims to automate repetitive jobs and reassign employees to more creative roles where they can add more value. This approach helps retain workers and move them into new roles, allowing the company to be more nimble and find new ways to stay ahead of competitors.

Amazon has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study the impact of automation on work. This partnership supports MIT's automation clinic and involves research to understand how employees and organizations are affected by emerging technologies like robots and Al.

In addition, Amazon is also teaming up with polling firm Ipsos to study public sentiment around the impact of robotics and Al in industrial settings. This research will inform both MIT and Amazon as they develop collaborative technologies that support employees.

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