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Innovation and technology leading Amazon supply chains, making them safer

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In 2012 Amazon, the multinational technology company focused on e-commerce, took an important and rather big step towards automation by acquiring Kiva – a robotics company to improve productivity in its supply chain. A bold, transformative move for Amazon, Kiva’s acquisition was a big bet in forecasting the role innovation would play in helping the them meet their customers’ needs while making work safer, simpler, and more productive for employees. 

While the Kiva acquisition kickstarted the use of robotics and other technology at amazon’s facility, it was just the start. Amazon has more than 520,000 robotic drive units and more than a dozen other types of robotic systems in its facilities around the world, including sort centres and air hubs.

Still committed to its ideology of innovation, we look at some of the latest technologies that Amazon is inventing and investing in, to create an even better workplace.

Proteus

Amazon’s first fully autonomous mobile robot, Proteus will help safely incorporate robotics in the same physical space as people, while remaining smart and collaborative. Using advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology developed by Amazon, Proteus autonomously moves through the facility.

The robot was built to be automatically directed to perform its work and move around employees – meaning it does not need to be confined to restricted areas. It can operate in a manner that augments simple, safe interaction between technology and people, opening up a broader range of possible uses to help its employees, such as the lifting and movement of GoCarts – the non-automated, wheeled transport used to move packages through its facilities. 

The robot will initially be deployed in the outbound GoCart handling areas in Amazon’s fulfillment centers and sort centers. The e-commerce giant is looking to automate GoCart handling throughout the network, which will help reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects through its facility and instead let them focus on more rewarding work.

Cardinal

Looking to automate the movement of heavy packages, and a reduction in twisting and turning motions by employees (thereby reducing the risk of injury), Amazon is introducing Cardinal, the robotic work cell that uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to nimbly and quickly select one package out of a pile of packages, lift it, read the label, and precisely place it in a GoCart to send it on the next step of its journey. 

The robot will reduce the risk of employee injuries by handling tasks that require lifting and turning of large or heavy packages or complicated packing in a confined space.

Cardinal sorts packages earlier in the shipping process, resulting in faster process time in the facility. Cardinal converts batch-based manual work into continuous, automated work, making amazon shipping operations run more smoothly. At present Amazon is testing a prototype of Cardinal for handling packages of up to 50 pounds, and is looking to deploy the technology in fulfillment centers next year.

Amazon Robotics Identification

Amazon Robotics Identification (AR ID), is an AI-powered scanning capability with innovative computer vision and machine learning technology to enable easier scanning of packages in our facilities. 

Currently, all packages at Amazon’s facilities are scanned at each destination on their journey. This scanning is currently manual in fulfilment centers. The AR ID removes the manual scanning process by using a unique camera system that runs at 120 frames per second, giving employees greater mobility and helping reduce the risk of injury.

Containerized Storage System

Another innovation by Amazon to improve safety in the workplace is the innovation of Containerisation Storage System. 

Amazon’s new System puts employees in a safer and more ergonomic position through a highly choreographed dance of robotics and software. The system helps determine which pod has the container with the needed product, where that container is located in the pod, how to grab and pull the container to the employee, and how to pick it up once the employee has retrieved the product. As a result, its employees benefit from a more comfortable, safer experience. 

Amazon, over the decades, has been committed to improving the experience of their customer and employees and to achieve a safe ecosystem, it has been continuously innovating. Revolutionising its operation with robotics, Amazon has been able to make its facility safer and more collaborative than ever. 

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