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December 2014

Automation for Holiday Manufacturing Increases

The holidays can bring increased sales and productivity for many manufacturers, but frequently this increased demand can actually exceed the capacity of the manufacturer’s facilities.

During these times, manufacturers may hire seasonal workers for support, but for many, the end of the year is a good time to consider more sustainable practices for managing increased demand in the future.

Amazon, always on the forefront of technological change, currently uses over 15,000 Kiva robots for support in their 109 shipping centers. Amazon has been increasing their reliance on Kiva robots since they purchased Kiva Systems in March 2012.

The Kiva robots, each capable of holding up to 750 lbs, are used to collect merchandise from the storage areas of the shipping centers to bring to employees in charge of packaging and shipping. This is a pretty classic situation for automation: the company identified a task that would be greatly simplified and made more efficient by use of robots. According to RoboHub, the conversion rate of human to robot labor in this regard has been about one hour to every minute.

Lifting large, heavy loads can also be very dangerous, and so it especially makes sense to assign a job like this to robots instead of humans. However, in addition to exemplifying good automation practices, Amazon has also set a good example in their hiring. According to RoboHub, this year Amazon hired over 80,000 seasonal workers to support holiday shipping.