Amazon Pushes Forward with Replacing More Humans with Machines

Amazon boxes
Amazon boxes are stacked on a delivery cart in New York City, U.S., February 14, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Amazon.com Inc plans to deploy more machines to automate the simple job of boxing-up customer orders, a change that will ultimately see hundreds of employees lose their jobs.

Amazon has long been looking at ways to boost profitability and hold down costs. Automating many of the menial jobs at its massive fulfillment centers across the United States is a natural target for its ongoing automation effort. The keyword in this process is efficiency.

The new machines are called CartonWrap and were made by Italian firm CMC Srl.

It scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and wraps them in seconds in boxes custom-built for each item, according to Reuters. It does this job much faster than humans, and can turn-out 600 to 700 boxes per hour, which is four to five times larger than that of a human packer.

The machines require only one employee to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue and a technician to fix jams.

This new machine has been tested in a number of warehouses over the past few years. Employees interviewed by media said Amazon plans to install two of these machines at dozens of more warehouses. The machines will do away with 24 human jobs, said these employees. Amazon fulfillment centers, which are massive warehouses, typically employ more than 2,000 people.

Deploying this machine will do away with more than 1,300 jobs across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory.

It's part of Amazon relentless push to slash labor costs while boosting profits. Amazon is famous, or infamous, for its desire to automate as many parts of its labor-intensive business as possible.

"We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network," said an Amazon spokeswoman. "We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created."

Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president of worldwide operations, defended the robots and the sacking of employees tweeting, "For all this fear of lost jobs the #1 issue for most of us is finding enough people to fill the jobs we have and the new ones we are creating."

Amazon, however, previously said a fully robotic future remains far off. It does plan to eventually automate most of the jobs currently being done by its human packers.

Amazon also plans to no longer replace employees who leave or who are fired as part of its automation campaign.

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