Amazon robotics boss says picking a ripe banana shows why robots won’t replace warehouse workers in the next decade

  • An Amazon robotics boss said the retail giant is at least 10 years away from fully automating the picking and packing process in its warehouses.
  • Scott Anderson said the technology is “very limited” at this point.
  • Amazon wants to make its supply chain more efficient and has acquired two robotics companies within the past seven years.
  • In April, it said it would be cutting its Prime two-day shipping policy into a one-day shipping offering. It is expected to beef up its supply chain capabilities to support this.
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Amazon is at least a decade away from fully automating its warehouses.

Scott Anderson, director of Amazon robotics fulfillment, told a group of reporters during a visit to Amazon’s Baltimore warehouse on Tuesday that the company is 10 years away from replacing certain human jobs.

He was referring specifically to the picking process, which would require robots to select a single product from a bin without picking up or damaging other items.

“In the current form, the technology is very limited. The technology is very far from the fully automated workstation that we would need,” Anderson said, according to Reuters.

Anderson used an analogy to further illustrate his point. “Just imagine if you want bananas. I want my bananas to be firm, others like their bananas to be ripe. How do you get a robot to choose that?” he said.

According to a recent report by TechCrunch, Amazon now has more than 100,000 robots in operation. According to Amazon, none of these robots are currently used in warehouses that handle fresh food because of the need for human intelligence.

Amazon has acquired two robotics companies within the past seven years. Most recently, Canvas Technologies, a robotics startup that makes a cart, which is designed to autonomously transport inventory around the warehouse.

In 2012, it bought another robotics company, Kiva Systems, for $US775 million. Kiva’s low rise robots are designed to automate the picking and packing process, speed up efficiency, and cut costs.

Read more:
Amazon says it’s cutting its Prime 2-day shipping guarantee to just one day

Anderson’s comments come just one week after Amazon announced that is working on cutting its guaranteed two-day shipping for Prime members down to one day.

Analysts are expecting Amazon to beef up its supply chain and fulfillment capabilities to support this. In a recent earnings call, Amazon said it will absorb $US800 million in additional expenses next quarter because of this new initiative.

Despite the expedited shipping, Anderson said the timing for when a product is ordered by a customer to when it is shipped out will not be cut down from the current four-hour goal.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.