Online commerce major Amazon.com has started using machines to automate the job of boxing up customer orders, Reuters reported.
Amazon is reportedly testing new technology in its warehouses that can package orders five times faster than humans. Workers place items on a conveyor belt, and the machine builds a box around them, processing up to 700 orders an hour. The new machines, known as the CartonWrap from Italian firm CMC Srl, require one person to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue, and a technician to fix occasional jams.
The report says the packing machines have been installed in a “handful” of warehouses, but Amazon is apparently considering introducing them to “dozens” of locations. In each machine’s case, it would mean the loss of 24 human jobs.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
The report also noted that the e-commerce giant doesn’t have to actually fire employees — it relies on attrition. “Rather than lay off workers, the person said, the world’s largest online retailer will one day refrain from refilling packing roles,” reads the report. “Those have high turnover because boxing multiple orders per minute over 10 hours is taxing work.”
Just last month, Amazon “downplayed” its current automation projects during a press visit to its Baltimore fulfillment center, claiming that a complete robotic future was still a ways off. Amazon’s employee base has also grown to become one of the largest in the United States, as the company frequently opens new warehouses and raises wages to attract new staff.
Back, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation, Paul Misener, argued that automation and hiring go “hand in hand” for the company, and the increased efficiency benefits everyone.