When we think about workers in an Amazon warehouse, we probably imagine them running down dozens of aisles filled with electronics, clothes, and other items, looking for that one item to box up and send out for swift delivery.
But what if the Amazon site and other company warehouses were run by robots?
In 2012, Amazon bought the warehouse robot maker Kiva Systems, according to Bloomberg, to insure that it had exclusive access to the company’s machines. Now other tech startups are looking to fill the whole left by Kiva’s departure from the open market by developing their own robotic systems geared to the needs of the burgeoning e-commerce sector.
Fetch Robotics in California and Harvest Automation in Massachusetts are two such companies. In one warehouse, eight robots made by Harvest were able to replace a pricey conveyer belt, according to a company spokesman.
Fetch, with a $23 million investment from a Japanese telecom firm, has been selling its robots since this spring for about $25,000. Both Harvest and Fetch are also looking into rental plans, with rates as low as $1.40 per hour, especially for companies that have seasonal warehouse needs during the holidays.
The rise of online shopping has been a boom for the employment market, with warehouse industry jobs up more than 22 percent over a five month period this year compared to last. But as the job market tightens, companies are looking to automation to cut costs.