Amazon says fully robotic warehouses at least 10 years away

Amazon has said that the technology to run a fully automated warehouse is at least a decade away, hoping to quell fears its warehouses will soon be dominated by robots.

The director of Amazon’s robotics fulfilment arm Scott Anderson, speaking during a tour of its warehouse in Baltimore, said that the idea that Amazon will run a fully automated warehouse in the near future was misguided.

He added that although Amazon is exploring the integration of various autonomous systems to help make its vast supply chain as efficient as possible, the technology for a robot to pick a single product from a bin without damaging it or other items was years away.

“In the current form, the technology is very limited,” Anderson said.

READ MORE: Amazon to spend nearly $1bn halving Prime delivery times

“The technology is very far from the fully automated workstation that we would need.”

This comes just days after Amazon said it hoped to half the delivery time of swathes of Prime customers from two-day free delivery to just one, setting ambitious targets to reduce the time between ordering an item and it leaving the warehouse to just four hours.

It also comes against a backdrop of growing criticism regarding Amazon’s labour practices, with concerns regarding working conditions and the automation of jobs continuing to make headlines.

Currently its robots are employed in warehouses to handle general merchandise, but are not yet able to handle softer items like fresh food for its Amazon Pantry arm.

Its global director of environment, health and safety Derek Jones added: “Just imagine if you want bananas. I want my bananas to be firm, others like their bananas to be ripe. How do you get a robot to choose that?”

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