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Short on Workers, Shippers Have Robots Pick Up the Slack


robot carrying a box

Efforts to reduce human contact at work has accelerated the deployment of automation.

Four robotic arms are among the most reliable workers at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis, Tenn. Each clocks eight hours a day of steady work, sorting around 1,300 packages an hour. They almost never take breaks.

The four 260-pound industrial robot arms, manufactured by Yaskawa America, are equipped with computer vision and artificial intelligence from Plus One Robotics.

They work only about half as fast as skilled humans, but are quickly becoming an important part of the chain of machines and people that keep packages flowing through the world's largest air freight facility, says Aaron Prather, senior advisor of the technology research and planning team at FedEx Express.

It's not as if the robots are about to steal jobs. For now, they're mostly filling vacancies created by surging demand and, where possible, giving humans a chance for promotion..

From The Wall Street Journal
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