In this file:
· Amazon’s New Robot Can Pack More Than 600 Boxes Per Hour
· Amazon offers employees $10K to quit their jobs, start delivery business
Amazon’s New Robot Can Pack More Than 600 Boxes Per Hour
By Joel Hruska, ExtremeTech
May 13, 2019
Amazon has installed new robots in its facilities that can pack hundreds of objects per hour and has considered rolling the technology out across its factories. The robots can wrap packages inside boxes it custom-assembles to fit each item. While the robots cost over a million dollars each, Amazon expects to recover the costs within two years.
A new report claims that Amazon has considered rolling out the machines at dozens of warehouses, removing an estimated 24 positions with each rollout. Reuters notes that Amazon is interested in cutting humans out of the warehouse process altogether to save on labor costs, but that the task of picking items out of bins remains too difficult for robots to perform in a cost and time effective manner.
Amazon has a tricky path to navigate here, as Reuters notes, between positioning itself as a potent employer — one towns are often glad to woo, since Amazon warehouse jobs can be relatively high-paying — and the back-breaking impact of the work. Stories about the physical difficulty of working at Amazon, its extensive use of temp agencies, the punishing schedule company employees are expected to work, and the limited help available to employees who are injured on the job have exploded in recent years, as Amazon warehouses have become more common.
“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. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
Amazon has said that it won’t fire workers to replace them with robots. Instead, it simply won’t hire more workers as robots come online, and intends to transition workers who already perform these roles into other jobs. The machines, which are built by the Italian firm CMC Srl, can pack 600-700 packages per hour, or four to five times the rate of a human. The idea of transitioning workers into different roles as opposed to replacing them is one of the ways that automation can transform employment without annihilating jobs, or can even create employment opportunities in other ways. If robots are deployed in factories, for example, this creates work in robot repair that didn’t previously exist.
This does not mean, however, that fears of the danger mass automation could pose to conventional employment is without merit. Over the past 50 years, American society was transformed as high-paying, blue-collar, unionized jobs were replaced by low-paying, non-unionized service work. Real wages for those in the middle-income quintile have scarcely budged in 40 years. The number of people on disability rolls has exploded, in part due to the greater physical toll factory labor takes on the human body compared with office work, and in part because, when a factory closes and lays off workers in their mid-50s, the overwhelming majority of those people are not going to secure jobs as entry-level programmers. The job retraining programs launched and championed by the United States over the past 40 years were not effective in eliminating or even substantially reducing the problems they were intended to address. Where worker retraining has been effective, it has tended to be in specific markets or situations that haven’t mapped well to the entire country.
A 2016 report on the success rate of these programs released by the Department of Labor found that the “availability of WIA-funded training did not increase earnings or employment in the 15 months after random assignment.” There was some weak evidence for improvements in these trends at the very end of the 15 month period that might become more apparent in a longer study; a 30-month study was said to be underway in the 15-month evaluation. But regardless, the data on how helpful existing worker training programs are all points in the same direction: They aren’t. The reasons why range from the specific social and geographic conditions in each individual training center to broader issues that work against the concept. Three issues, in particular, stand out:
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Amazon offers employees $10K to quit their jobs, start delivery business
By: Associated Press
via WFTS Tampa Bay - May 14, 2019
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, which is racing to deliver packages faster, is turning to its own employees with a proposition: Quit your job and we'll help you start a business delivering Amazon packages.
The offer, announced Monday, comes as Amazon seeks to speed up its shipping time from two days to one for its Prime members. The company sees the new incentive as a way to get more packages delivered to shoppers' doorsteps more quickly.
Amazon says it will cover up to $10,000 in startup costs for employees who are accepted into the program and leave their jobs. Those who participate will be able to lease blue vans with the Amazon smile logo stamped on the side. The company says it will also pay them three months' worth of their salary.
The offer is open to most part-time and full-time Amazon employees, including warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. Whole Foods employees are not eligible to receive the new incentives.
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. declined to say how many employees it expects to take them up on the offer.
The new employee incentive is part of a program Amazon started a year ago that let anyone apply to launch an independent Amazon delivery business and provided $10,000 in reimbursements to military veterans.
The expansion is part of the company's plan to gain more control over its deliveries rather than rely on UPS, the post office and other carriers. It also gives Amazon a way to grow its delivery network without spending the money needed to buy vehicles or hire workers, says Barb Ivanov, director of University of Washington's Urban Freight Lab, a research lab that focuses on logistics and supply chain transportation.
"The wage problem won't be Amazon's problem," says Ivanov.
Overall, more than 200 Amazon delivery businesses have been created since it launched the program last June, says John Felton, Amazon's vice president of global delivery services.
One of them is run by Milton Collier, a freight broker...