Cyber Monday represents both good and bad scenarios for the majority of online retailers. Obviously, more orders equals more money which is good but some retailers struggle to meet demand on the biggest online shopping day of the year.
In order to fulfill orders in a timely manner, Amazon calls upon a 15,000 strong Kiva robot army in its order-fulfillment center in Tracy, California.
The massive complex spans more than one million square feet and holds a ton of items. And I mean a ton!
“Whether it’s consumables or toys or electronics, with 3,500,000 items plus in this building, the odds are, pretty much anything you wanted was likely here,” says Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.
Amazon’s Kiva robots expedite the order fulfillment process by retrieving products and even entire shelves, then transporting the goods to a human employee who simply has to double check the order and inspect the product.
Amazon’s Reginaldo Rosales said when speaking on one of the robot’s, “Now it’s telling us the Monopoly electronic banking game. We pick the item, we give a six-sided check — make sure it’s not damaged — and it tells us what bin. And you confirm it.”
Since the army of Kiva robots retrieve the items from the warehouse and not humans, the need for the aisles is eliminated, enabling Amazon to pack 50 percent more product into its warehouses.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Andrew McAfee says, “Robots aren’t really, really good at manual dexterity. Their vision systems are often not as good as our vision systems.”
If the kiva robots featured excellent vision systems in addition to all the other exceptional traits the machines already exhibit, it is feasible that Amazon’s entire order fulfillment process could be automated.
That’s a scary thought for the future…