The Secret To Amazon's Efficiency Is Part Man, Part Machine

Amazon is known for its mastery of logistics and efficiency, but when the company allowed Wired to take a look in one of its warehouses in Phoenix, it became clear how a modern online retail giant runs its operations in 2014: a perfect balance of robots and workers.

While we’re still a ways away from completely robotized Amazon “fulfillment centres,” the company has done the next best thing. It has essentially optimised the ratio of humans to machines in its warehouses worldwide, Wired reports. The number of each they have chosen leaves their operations as efficient as possible.

The world’s largest online retailer employed more than 117,000 full-time and part-time workers across the globe, according to a report from GeekWire from January. Still, its warehouses use conveyor belts to transport items and machines to print and stick mailing labels on them. A computer keeps track of every item in the facility via bar code. All of this happens in conjunction with workers who act essentially as efficiently as machines with thumbs, Wired reports.

Of course, this is all coming from the company that famously announced last fall it plans to begin shipping products via drone.

This sort of wildly ambitious infrastructure is what sets Amazon apart and ahead of competitors, from Wal-Mart and Target to the Chinese Alibaba.

“That stuff is hard to replicate, and it’s really hard to short circuit as well,” CEO of e-commerce analysis company ChannelAdvisor Scot Wingo told Wired. “There are certain things in the world that you can’t just hack and reverse-engineer quickly.”

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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