Amazon introduced our first mobile robots to help fulfil customer orders in 2012. These small but mighty robots were the predecessors to our current robots which continue to improve safety and efficiency in fulfilment centres across the world. Amazon robots help employees by travelling around our facilities to retrieve shelves of products and delivering them to employees, who then pick the items customers have ordered for shipping.
Over the last 10 years, Amazon’s mobile drives have continued to evolve, becoming an increasingly important part of our global operations. Below are four cool facts about our robots.
1.Amazon robots can lift up to 1,250 pounds
Amazon robots travel back and forth in our fulfilment centres to pick up mobile shelves of products and deliver them to employees at their workstations. Amazon stores goods on four-sided shelves called pods, which contain inventory ready for customers. When a customer order is made, the robot slides under the appropriate pod, lifts it off the ground, and drives the pod to an employee, who picks the item and sends it off for packing.
At the Bristol fulfilment centre, which is one of the largest in the UK, thousands of robots move across the 500,000 sqft building. These robots are capable of lifting pods weighing almost as much as a grand concert piano - which is up to 1,250 pounds.
2.Amazon robots use centralised planning software to make smart decisions.
Amazon robots makes key decisions about how it moves independently, but takes overall direction from centralised planning software. After an order arrives at a specific fulfilment centre, the software begins to orchestrate the safe, efficient movement of robot drives to help meet the delivery date. Amazon has over 750,000 mobile robots across its network. At each site, thousands of robot are coordinating how they move as a connected fleet.
3.It has eyes (kind of).
Amazon's robots are equipped with tiny cameras both on the front and underneath. These cameras identify people, pods, and other robots. They also scan QR codes on the floor to easily locate their position and avoid collisions while moving around the fulfilment centre.
At fulfilment centres such as the one in Bristol with solar panels, the robots automatically move to a charging point powered by solar energy when their batteries are low.
4.It communicates with employees through wearable artificial intelligence (AI) powered safety vests.
Our robots don’t only communicate with other robots but also human beings. They can identify the location of maintenance engineers, like Geraint Davies in our Bristol fulfilment centre, who wear AI-powered safety vests called ‘Cerberus’. If a robot comes within 8 meters of someone wearing the vest, it is programmed to slow down, change course, or even stop completely. This ensures the safety of everyone involved and minimises the risk of accidents.