A year ago, workers at Amazon.com as Rejinaldo Rosales, 34, had to walk miles of corridors on each shift to pick items ordered customers and prepare them for shipment.
Now the giant Internet sales company claims to have increased efficiency and be giving a respite to workers, deploying more than 15,000 wheeled robots that go back and forth through the halls of his enormous warehouse and deliver lots of toys , books and other to employees.
"We collect two or three times faster than we did," said Rosales during a short break in their task of separating the goods by container in the vast Amazon distribution center in Tracy, California, about 96 miles east of San Francisco. "It has made the job much easier," he added.
Amazon.com Inc., which on Monday faced its biggest shopping day of the Internet, has invested heavily this year to modernize and expand its distribution network, adding new technology, opening more boarding schools and hiring 80,000 temporary workers to fill orders for the holiday season. Last year, Amazon orders processed 36.8 million items on Cyber Monday, the day following Thanksgiving Monday, and hoped that this year was even more active.
The CEO Jeff Bezos promises that someday the company will deliver the goods with drones (remotely operated robots), but the technology is not ready yet. However, Amazon does not want to repeat last year delivery problems, when some customers received their purchases later by delays attributed to snowfall in the Midwest and tangles last-minute shipments UPS and FedEx. At the same time, Amazon faces strong competition from adversaries like eBay and Google, and traditional retail stores are offering more services online.
Amazon has forecast revenue of 27.300-30.300 million in the last quarter, 18% more than last year, but less than expected by Wall Street. However, it has invested billions of dollars in shipping and network reliability is a strong argument for consumer sale, wrote Friday in a note to clients Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray investment. He thinks the forecast is conservative.
The Seattle-based company now has 109 shipping centers in the world. Amazon has placed robots in Tracy, ( one of 10) using technology acquired when the company bought the robots to manufacturer Kiva Systems Inc. in 2012, said Dave Clark, vice president of operations Amazon, who gave reporters Sunday a guided tour.
Over 1,500 people work full time in the center in Tracy, measuring 110,000 square meters, equivalent to 28 football fields. Employees are supported by 3,000 robots that run swiftly and silently through the huge warehouse. The robots run scanning barcodes on the floor following digital commands transmitted from a remote central computer.
Each of the orange machines can slide under a shelf and even lifting and holding up to 340 kilos (750 pounds) of merchandise. The system uses barcodes to locate objects on each shelf, so a robot can find the right for each worker dresser while the order arrives.
As robots move below, the shelves can be positioned closer together, which in turn allows greater storage goods, Clark explained. In the winery in Tracy is stored about 20 million items representing 3.5 million different objects, from gourmet sauce bottles to headphones, books and video games. Clark said here about 700,000 shipments per day are made, but next year will be more.
Robots have helped to costs down 20% in Tracy said the executive.
Amazon has an army of Kiva robots doing Santa's work this holiday season. The robots have been installed in ten of Amazon's 50 U.S. warehouses. They're scurrying the floors collecting merchandise to get boxed and shipped. Bloomberg's Sam Grobart looks at how these orange machines operate and why they're so efficient.