Amazon Robotics

by Chun Cheng and Rui Tao
PhD candidates at Polytechnique School of Montreal

Imagine that you have put an order on Amazon, including a computer, a desk and some sacks. After receiving your order, the worker will start to process it. Apparently, the things you buy are stored in different locations in the warehouse. If the worker picks the stuff walking from one place to another, he will definitely be exhausted. Luckily, Amazon robotics can give a help.

Amazon robotics are formerly named as Kiva System, and they are first developed by a businessman,  Mick Mountz. After working on the business process team at a failed online grocery delivery business, Mick Mountz concluded that the company’s downfall was due to the inflexibility of existing material handling systems and the high cost of order fulfilment. These challenges inspired Mountz to implement orders.

To accomplish his goal, Mountz sought help from Peter Wurman and Raffaello D'Andrea, who were experts in the area of engineering and robotics. In 2003, Mountz became the founder and CEO of Kiva Systems. In March 2012, Amazon company acquired Kiva Systems for $775 million, the second-largest acquisition in its history.

After receiving your order, the robot travels to the storage locations, and then carries the storage units to the worker. Then the worker can package the items. During the process, the worker does not need to move, and he can stay at the counter to finish all his work. The robots can help to reduce the number of workers. So it can help companies save costs. Meanwhile, they reduce workers’ working loads.

A video which introduces the working principle of Amazon Robotics is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr6Rco5A9SM.

After the acquisition, Amazon does not share the technology with other competitors. But many companies around the world began to develop their robots which can be used in the warehouse. The following picture shows robotics developed by a Chinese logistics company.

Robots make the warehouse operations more easily!