It goes without saying that Amazon is a massive company. Late last year, in fact, it moved past the 600,000 employee mark worldwide. And while employee numbers have grown, robots have also been steadily moving into Amazon warehouses for more than 5 years.
In 26 of its 175 fulfillment centers worldwide right now, Amazon says people and robots work together to pick, sort and transport packages. Robot automation has even taken over some jobs completely, like transporting pallets through buildings. But other machinery has apparently been added to a few of Amazon's fulfillment centers over the past few years that does even more. It's tech that could soon make its way into dozens of more warehouses.
And it's the company's work to streamline processes with machines that's looking to directly impact some of those employees, in an effort to speed up getting orders to you. Yes, jobs could be lost but in another plan, Amazon is also looking to get employees to start their own business delivering packages to your front door.
5 times the speed of Amazon's human employees
One of the biggest jobs in Amazon's fulfillment centers is getting orders boxed-up and out the door, and the employees have to be fast to keep up with demand. As fast as they might be, however, they'll never be able to compete with the speed coming from new machines in some of the warehouses.
Two anonymous sources, who apparently worked on the Amazon project, told Reuters that the new machines are called CartonWrap 1000 and come from an Italian company. These machines can measure items, fold and cut cardboard to the correct size, print the shipping label and get them on their way to you.
It's not just the fact they can automate the job - it's that these machines can pack 600 to 700 boxes per hour, which is four to five times the number a person can crank out. The only humans involved in the process is someone to load the orders, another to keep the cardboard and glue stocked and finally, a technician to fix any jams that come up.
What more automation means for Amazon warehouse workers
CartonWrap machines are expected to make their way into about 55 warehouses across the country, according to the report, and could eliminate the jobs of 24 people at each location. That means the potential for over 1,300 jobs lost.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
It must be new jobs in other areas since Amazon is also looking to get some employees to quit. Now it has a new idea for workers to become "entrepreneurs" in a plan that was coincidentally released on Monday.
An offer for Amazon employees to quit
Although it's not directly tied to the report about its packing machines and potential for lost jobs, Amazon is now encouraging employees to quit their jobs and start their own small business delivering Amazon packages. It's open to most employees, both part-time and full-time including those warehouse workers who might need to start coming up with a new plan anyway. Read the full release here.
Amazon says it's expanding its Delivery service Partner program in the U.S. by offering incentives for current employees. If these employees quit, Amazon will help fund their new startup by up to $10,000 and pay 3 months of their former gross salary to give them time to get their new business up and running. They'll even get Amazon-branded vans and uniforms.
It first launched the Delivery Service Partner program last year, and say that since then more than 200 small businesses have been created with thousands of delivery drivers. Just check out the video it released last June to promote the program:
What Amazon's plans mean for you
You might remember Amazon recently said it's working to one-up its competitors and cut its delivery time in half with one-day free shipping for Prime members. Read more about its plan and other delivery methods by tapping or clicking here.
So it's not exactly a wonder why it's bringing in machines to get orders packaged and out to you sooner. And its plan for more delivery drivers? That also means the potential for faster shipping, with less reliance on USPS, FedEx and UPS that work with shipments coming from places other than Amazon.
Although the future might not be bright for every Amazon employee, you can expect to soon get your packages faster than ever before. But if it was packed by a machine, let's hope it knows the difference in handling something like a fragile vase versus a stainless steel pan. Because what's the benefit of one-day shipping if you get a box full of shattered glass?
How to get Amazon to donate for you
You might not be aware of a program called AmazonSmile, which is supposed to make it easy to make a donation to a charity of your choice. All you have to do is shop and it doesn't cost you a dime.