Online retail giant Amazon now has 200,000 robots in operation within its warehouses in the US, according to a report published by Associated Press.
The article, written by Matt O’Brien, doesn’t say where it got the figure, but it could be inferred from the rest of the article that it was provided by Amazon itself.
Amazon first became interested in warehouse robots in a big way when it bought Kiva Systems for $775 million, in 2012.
At the time, Kiva Systems was the only recognised manufacturer of warehouse robots and was supplying many different companies in the logistics market.
After buying it, Amazon took Kiva Systems’ machines off the market and built and used all the robots it made. It has also now established a business unit called Amazon Robotics.
O’Brien reports that Amazon refers to its robots as “drives” and uses them in its delivery and fulfilment centres around the US.
He says that the company had 14,000 of the drives in operation in 2014, and “now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles”.
He quotes Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ chief technologist, as saying: “The efficiencies we gain from our associates and robotics working together harmoniously — what I like to call a symphony of humans and machines working together — allows us to pass along a lower cost to our customer.”
Some observers have claimed that it is these warehouse robots that have enabled Amazon to accelerate its growth in two key sectors of business – online retail and logistics.
Amazon has for some years been regarded as the world’s largest online retailer, but it’s now also one of the world’s top 10 logistics companies.
Its growth in the logistics sector has been such that business analysts at Morgan Stanley expects Amazon to ship 6.5 billion packages in 2022, causing establish logistics specialists such as UPS, FedEx and USPS to lose $65 billion in annual revenue.
Amazon, which now has massive businesses in multiple sectors – including cloud computing – does not always break down its revenues to include logistics, but did mention a couple of years ago that its logistics business had generated $6 billion in one quarter.
Moreover, Amazon Robotics is now planning to build a dedicated research and development centre for its robotics business.
The $40 million robotics hub will be located in Westborough, Massachussetts, covering 350,000 sq ft, and is scheduled to open next year.