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As E-Commerce Booms, Robots Pick Up Human Slack


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Robotic arms sort packages at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis, TN.

Robots increasingly are filling some of the most common job roles in warehousing and logistics.

Credit: FedEx

Four robots in use at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis, TN, work eight hours a day, sorting about 1,300 packages an hour.

While the robots work only about half as fast as skilled humans, they are an important part of the chain of machines and people that keep packages, says FedEx Express’ Aaron Prather.

In contrast, Amazon, while an avid producer and consumer of robots, still uses humans to accomplish such tasks because its enormous, ever-changing inventory is too much for even the best combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and grippers to handle, according to Amazon Robotics’ Brad Porter.

Experts stress the importance of having robots fill some of the most common job roles in warehousing and logistics due to the explosion of e-commerce, Covid-19 stay-at-home orders that reduce the availability of workers, and the need to maintain social distancing between workers; they contend robots are filling vacancies created by rising demand, rather than stealing jobs.

From The Wall Street Journal
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