One of the things many people have noticed about receiving goods they ordered online is the amount of empty space inside the box. Sometimes, more than 90 percent of the box is empty.
This is obviously inefficient and can result in much additional and unnecessary cost, from the amount of box material wasted, through the amount of wasted space within vehicles in transit, to name just two aspects.
While these inefficiencies have continued, for a long time, machines that automate the process of putting items inside boxes have been available. Not only can these machines box things up, they can also custom-build the box to fit the item on the fly.
Robotics and Automation News highlighted some of the companies offering such solutions in an article last year, after learning about them at an e-commerce industry event called Deliver.
The companies producing these machines include CMC, and NeoPost, which actually built its business manufacturing and selling mail franking machines.
Now, Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is testing such machines in its warehouses, according to a report by Reuters.
Some of these machines are claimed to be able to build, fill, fold and label each parcel in one seamless process in “just seven seconds”, which is obviously a fraction of the time it would take simply to place an item in a box and tape it up, never mind building the box in the first place.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” says an Amazon spokeswoman.
While some may wonder about the effect this will have on jobs at Amazon, as well as in similar supply chain facilities, it’s difficult to counter the efficiency argument.
And Dave Clark, SVP operations at Amazon, said on his Twitter account that the packages produced by the machines are “smaller with less overall cardboard waste”.
And on the point of potential effects on employment at Amazon, Clark says: “For all this fear of lost jobs the #1 issue for most of us is finding enough people to fill the jobs we have and the new ones we are creating.”