Amazon.com has dismissed the idea of running a fully automated warehouse in the near future, citing the superior cognitive ability of humans and the limitations of current technology. Photo: Reuters
WASHINGTON – Amazon.com has dismissed the idea of running a fully automated warehouse in the near future, citing the superior cognitive ability of humans and the limitations of current technology.

Scott Anderson, the director of Amazon Robotics Fulfilment, said technology was at least 10 years away from fully automating the processing of a single order picked by a worker inside a warehouse.

“There is a fallacy in the initial understanding of ‘are we going to be a lights-out fulfilment network in the next few years?’” Anderson said during a tour of Amazon’s Baltimore warehouse for journalists this week.

For example, he said, the technology for a robot to pick a single product from a bin without damaging other products or picking multiple products at the same time in a way that could benefit the e-commerce retailer is years away.

Anderson said Amazon was exploring a variety of technologies to automate the process of packing merchandise into boxes, but it could take a decade or longer for the company to do that.

“The technology is far from the fully automated workstation that we would need,” Anderson said.

The tour came at a time when the company has come under fire from labour groups and other critics for allegedly poor working conditions in its warehouses and for increasingly automating jobs and reducing dependence on human labour.

The company said it was not changing the level of productivity in its warehouses to catch up with its recent one-day shipping announcement. It was instead making changes to the transport and delivery process.

Last month, Amazon said it planned to deliver packages to members of its loyalty club, Prime, in just a day instead of two.

Anderson said Amazon’s current target was four hours from the time a product was ordered to the time it left the warehouse and the company was sticking to that.

The e-commerce company did not share details of how its decision to raise its minimum wage to $15 had affected work force turnover.

But it said applications for seasonal jobs doubled to 850000 at the end of October last year from the record number of applications the company received in August 2017, when it held a national job fair.

Amazon raised its minimum wage for US employees in November, giving in to critics over pay and working conditions. 

Reuters