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More Robots Report to Work at Amazon

Retail company rolls out new system at Texas fulfillment center
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Amazon ergonomic workstation
Amazon added a new ergonomic workstation to a fulfillment center in Houston, as part of a new robotics-based system.

Amazon, which has deployed more than 750,000 robots working “collaboratively” with its employees, has launched a new robotics system during the busiest retailing season.

The system, Sequoia, is in place at an Amazon fulfillment center in Houston, Texas. According to the retail giant, Sequoia will allow the company to identify and store inventory at fulfillment centers up to 75% faster than its current system. The technology also cuts order-processing time by 25%, boosting the number of goods that can be offered for same-day or next-day shipping.

[Read more: “Amazon Opens 2 Delivery Stations in Connecticut Ahead of Busy Holiday Season”]

With an apt name inspired by towering trees, the Sequoia system  combines a strong base and a broad cover. Essentially, mobile robots transport containerized inventory directly to an area that can either restock totes or send them to an employee to pick out inventory that customers have ordered. Employees at the redesigned ergonomic workstations then do their work in a more efficient “power zone” that can cut down on injuries and strain. A new robotic arm consolidates inventory in totes, allowing full totes to be returned to storage.

Amazon continues to hone other robotics technologies, too. The retail giant shared that its testing mobile robotics that can move while also grasping and handling items, akin to human movements. The bipedal robot, called Digit, was created by partner Agility Robotics. 

Amazon Digit robot
A new upright robot used at an Amazon facility can grasp and move packages.

Amazon explained the applications in a blog post: “We believe that there is a big opportunity to scale a mobile manipulator solution, such as Digit, which can work collaboratively with employees. Our initial use for this technology will be to help employees with tote recycling, a highly repetitive process of picking up and moving empty totes once inventory has been completely picked out of them.”

The technologies follow the introduction of Amazon’s other automated systems, including its first autonomous mobile robot, dubbed Proteus. In 2022, a billion packages were sorted by the company’s Robin robotic handling system.

Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named the company one of its Retailers of the Century.

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