Amazon boosts robotics capabilities in Europe

Amazon boosts robotics capabilities in Europe

More than half a million robotic engine units and more than a dozen other robotic systems operate in its facilities around the world, and Amazon’s e-commerce business is investing deeply in robotics technology.

Related: Amazon launches $1 billion logistics fund for robotics

But building that robot empire took a lot of time and money, with its investment in warehouse automation dating back to 2012 with the $775 million acquisition of Kiva Systems. Later in 2015, Kiva became Amazon Robotics and the company introduced its warehouse robots in Europe soon after.

The Kiva purchase set the tone for Amazon’s automation strategy in subsequent years, during which the company invested heavily in a series of robotics companies. More recently, these have included iRobot, the company behind the Roomba vacuum cleaner, and earlier this month, Belgian trading company Cloostermans “Mechatronics,” which has been supplying Amazon with industrial robots that have been moving and stacking pallets since 2019.

Continue reading: Amazon acquires iRobot, maker of Roomba Robot Vacuum

By bringing the Belgian company inland, Amazon will be able to direct Cloostermans research and development teams specifically toward their needs, as part of broader plans to expand its presence in Europe.

Find out more: Amazon acquires Belgian warehouse automation company Cloostermans

This expanded regional presence includes Amazon’s European Operations Innovation Lab, based in Vercelli, northern Italy, which opened in 2021 and serves as a research and development hub for the supply chain and logistics arm of the company.

The Italian Innovation Lab adds to similar research and development centers at Amazon in Germany, including an artificial intelligence (AI) “lab” in the university city of Tübingen, where scientists conduct research in computer vision, analog learning, robotics, machine learning, causal reasoning, and learning. Deep and 3D modeling.

How long until bots take over?

In Amazon’s most high-tech fulfillment centers, human employees work alongside an array of autonomous and semi-autonomous robots.

These include mechanical arms for stacking boxes known as pallets and computer-powered storage stations that use artificial intelligence to identify items in order before moving to another corner of the warehouse.

With each innovative product, Amazon’s human warehouse employees find an increase in their efficiency. Besides helping with the heavy lifting, a combination of sensors, automatic conveyors and smart interfaces help employees sort, pack and label deliveries faster than ever before.

All of this begs the question, how long before Amazon warehouses do not need to hire human workers at all?

In 2019, Scott Anderson, the company’s director of robotics implementation, said, Tell Reporters that full automation, in which humans have been completely removed from the process of implementing warehouses, was at least a decade away.

Currently, Amazon continues to improve its existing distribution capabilities, and to increase efficiency, the company has closed some of its smaller and older centers and consolidated warehouse operations into larger, high-tech facilities.

Continue reading: Report: Amazon shuts down and delays some facilities as e-commerce growth slows

Ultimately, the company’s global logistics network, including its workforce and the type of work its employees do, will undoubtedly be transformed by robots in the coming years.

Looking at one of the recently opened distribution centers in the UK reveals just how advanced the technology really is.

At 550,000 square feet, the Amazon Swindon Fulfillment Center is the second largest in the country. And while more than 1,000 Amazon employees work on the sites, local media this year mentioned More than three-quarters of the warehouse floor space is reserved for more than 6,000 autonomous robots.

Instead of having to navigate between packing stations and storage racks to pack items, as they do at other Amazon locations, fulfillment staff at the Swindon Center can rely on these robots to do the heavy lifting for them.

For safety reasons, warehouse areas where robots move are off-limits to everyone except technicians, who must wear special vests that designate for robots so they can move safely around them.

Related: Proteus is Amazon’s first fully autonomous mobile robot

But this may not be a problem for a long time with the recent emergence ProteusAmazon’s first fully autonomous mobile robot that can move safely in the same space as warehouse employees.

In addition, Amazon’s delivery robot – Amazon Scout – is being tested in Helsinki, Finland, while a team at the company’s Cambridge development center is exploring how to roll out the technology in the UK

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