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Supply Chain News: Amazon Blog Announces New Mini-load System for Putaway and Picking, and a Prototype Humanoid Robot it Calls Digit


Amazon Now has Deployed more than 750,000 Robots of All Types across the Globe

Oct. 24, 2023


SCDigest Editorial Staff

Amazon, which has started to name its various robotics system, this week announced a new “Sequoia” robotic tote handling systems it says will dramatically improve both putaway and order picking.

In a blog post this week, Amazon also announced a protype humanoid robot called Digit, which can pick up and move totes.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Incredibly, Amazon says it has now deployed a mind-boggling 750,000 robobors of all types at its various logistics facilities across the globe – with lots more it appears coming soon.

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Interestingly, Amazon positions its robotics generally and newest entrants specifically as being largely around the benefits to workers. For example, the blog post states that “we are passionate about technology that makes the work experience of our employees safer, easier, and less repetitive.”

Under scrutiny and criticism in recent years regarding its track record on worker safety in its fulfillment centers, in the blog post Amazon repeats research it release this year that found that in 2022, recordable incident rates and lost-time incident rates were 15% and 18% lower, respectively, at Amazon Robotics sites than non-robotics sites. (See A Look at Amazon’s Robot Strategy, with a Focus On Safety.)

“Sequoia will help continue this positive trend,” Amazon says.

The system is currently operating at an Amazon fulfillment center in Houston. It is a robotic tote handling system for both inbound and outbound.

It integrates multiple robot systems to containerize inbound inventory into totes, bringing together mobile robots, gantry systems, robotic arms, and a newly designed ergonomic associate workstation.

Sequoia is fundamentally mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), with a “goods-to-person” approach to order picking.

It uses mobile robots to transport inventory in totes directly to a gantry, a tall frame with a platform supporting equipment that can either put totes away or send them to an associate to pick out inventory from one system tote to a tote with items for a customer order.

As noted above, Amazon says the totes come to associates at a newly-designed ergonomic workstation that allows them to do all their work in the so-called “golden zone,” located between mid-thigh and mid-chest height. "

“With this system, employees will no longer have to regularly reach above their heads or squat down to pick customer orders, supporting Amazon efforts to reduce the risk of injuries,” the company says.

(See More Below)





After the pick for a system tote are complete, the remaining inventory may need to be consolidated to maximize tote utilization. To do that, Amazon is using its newest robotic arm, called Sparrow, which grabs items from one tote and drops them to another, with totes it appears containing multiple SKUs.

The workstation displays a photo of each needed item for an order to minimize selection errors from multi-SKU totes.
More on this system as information becomes available.

But Amazon has many irons in the FC fire. Notably, the blog post cites an on-going collaboration with a company Agility Robotics. Amazon says it will soon begin testing Agility’s humanoid robot called Digit.

Amazon says that “Digit can move, grasp, and handle items in spaces and corners of warehouses in novel ways.” (See photo below.) Digit seems similar to robots being develop by Boston Dynamics.


Amazon's Humanoid Digit Robot




Amazon says its initial pilot for this technology will be to help associates with tote recycling, a highly repetitive process of picking up and moving empty totes once inventory has been completely picked out of them.

Incredibly, Amazon says it has now deployed a mind-boggling 750,000 robobors of all types at its various logistics facilities across the globe – with lots more it appears coming soon.

Do you have any thoughts on these new Amazon robots? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below (email) or in the Feedback section.




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