Nonstop Robotic Fulfillment
Amazon opened up a new fulfillment center in New York City back in September. Dubbed JFK8, the facility is an 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center located more specifically in Staten Island. It stands four stories tall in order to save space in the ever so busy New York City. It’s smaller than the average Amazon fulfillment center, as well. More specifically, it’s 20% smaller than most. That’s because it’s one of Amazon’s 26 “robotic” buildings. It’s a smart building that makes use of hundreds of robotic drive units that carry packages back and forth. These units move in specific patterns depending on the item(s) they have in tow. If an item were to fall off the drive unit, AI will pinpoint where the item is. The drive units also carry stacks of shelves on top of themselves to carry multiple items. This gives Amazon the benefit of being able to fit 50% more inventory in storage space. Not to mention, the drive units are also team players that care about their “coworkers.”
The Human Touch
JFK8 isn’t completely robotic. It houses over 2,700 workers that fit a plethora of roles in the state-of-the-art facility. Thanks to Amazon’s minimum wage reform they’re also all paid wages from $17/hr to $23/hr. Thanks to their “coworkers”, the drive units, they also get to work at a normal pace during peak holiday season hours. It makes sense that the closer to the holiday season, and during the season itself, that work becomes more hectic. However, Amazon has the key to success during this high-traffic season. To be precise, Amazon has two keys: artificial intelligence and computer vision. These two things, when applied to the drive units create a symbiosis between man and machine.
Each drive unit is constantly in motion. In addition, in order to illustrate how seamlessly human workers and drive units work together: here’s a scenario. You’re sitting at home and order an item on Amazon. The drone at your nearest fulfillment center, that carries the item, will then bring the item to the employee. Additionally, the closest unit to the employee is the unit that is chosen. Then, a light will begin to blink so the employee knows where the item is located.
The employee will then place the item in the delivery basket and the process is complete. Not to mention, the drones record the pace at which a human worker moves and adjusts its speed accordingly to avoid bumping into them. That way, depending on the person that it working, the units will move faster or slower.
As mentioned previously, there’s a distinct speed advantage to having a fulfillment center in a populated area. By building the facilities in these hubs, orders can be fulfilled in under an hour. As well as, the ability to give customers a shorter delivery time. These robotic facilities can fulfill over one million orders a day. In contrast, traditional fulfillment centers can only fulfill around half a million. Through the combination of man and machine, Amazon continues to be at the forefront of the fulfillment center industry.