Amazon, by far the world’s largest online retailer, bought Kiva Systems a few years back.
At that time, Kiva was a small robotics company appreciated by logistics customers for its autonomous warehouse vehicles.
Now, repackaged as Amazon Robotics machines, those vehicles or their descendants are working in Amazon warehouses – and in very large numbers.
According to a report in the Seattle Times, Amazon increased its robot workforce by 50 per cent over the course of 2016.
The company now has 45,000 robots working alongside 230,000 humans across some 20 fulfilment centres, says the Seattle Times report, which draws perhaps a paranoid parallel when it points out that Amazon now has more robots than the Netherlands has army personnel.
We don’t give in to paranoia at this website. Besides, it’s too late now anyway.
Quoting Amazon chief financial offer Brian Olsavsky, Seattle Times reports that much of the robots and automation technology utilised by the company is still experimental.
“We’ve changed the automation, the size, the scale many times, and we continue to learn and grow there,” says Olsavsky.