Now Ms. Scott, 21, sees her replacement a giant, the bright yellow mechanical arm does the stacking of boxes.
Her new job at Amazon is to babysit many robots at a time, troubleshooting them when needed and getting sure they have bins to load. On a new afternoon, a hook at end of the arm grabbed a bin off a conveyor belt and piled it on another bin, making neat columns on wood pallets circling the robot. It was the first time Amazon had revealed the arm, the latest generation of androids in use at its warehouses.
“For me, it’s the common mentally challenging thing we have here,” Ms. Scott said of her new job. “It’s not repeated.”
Perhaps no organization embodies the fears and hopes throughout automation better than Amazon. Many people, including President Trump, criticize the company for killing traditional retail jobs by enticing people to shop online. At the very same time, the company’s eye-popping increase has turned it into a hiring machine, with an unquenchable demand for entry-level warehouse workers to capture customer orders.
Amazon’s global labor force is three times larger than Microsoft’s and 18 times larger than Facebook’s, and last week, Amazon announced it would open a secondary headquarters in North America with up to 50,000 new jobs.
Complicating the equation, even more, Amazon is also on the vanguard of automation, finding new methods of getting robots to do the task once handled by employees. In 2014, the company began operating out robots to its stockpiles using machines originally developed by Kiva Systems, a corporation Amazon bought for $775 million two cycles earlier and renamed Amazon Robotics. Amazon now has more than 100,000 androids in action around the world, and it has plans to add much more to the mix.
The robots make warehouse job less tedious and actually taxing, while also allowing the kinds of performance gains that let a customer order dental floss after a meal and receive it before dinner.
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