Amazon’s robot workforce grows by 50pc in just one year

4 Jan 2017

The robot workforce at Amazon has increased from zero to 45,000 in just five years. Image: Ociacia/Shutterstock

E-commerce and cloud giant Amazon has revealed that it now has 45,000 robots across 20 fulfilment centres around the world.

This is a 50pc increase on the same time last year, when the company said that it employed 30,000 robots alongside its 306,000 people.

Amazon uses the robots to automate the picking and packing process at large warehouses.

The robots are 16in tall and weigh 145kg. They can travel at 5mph and can carry packages that weigh 317kg.

The robots became part of the company’s workforce when Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775m.

Robot workforce growth keeps pace with humans… for now

According to The Seattle Times, the pace of growth is keeping pace with that of human capital, whereby Amazon has seen its own human workforce grow by around 46pc in the 2016 calendar year.

Although the rise in Amazon’s robot army might be alarming in terms of human job loss, the reality is that while robots are good for moving objects from A to B, human dexterity is still essential. But that may change.

It emerged yesterday (3 January 2017) that in Japan, insurance company Fukoku Mutual is to cut the workforce of its claims department by 30pc, using AI to validate medical claims.

This could be just the beginning for Amazon. In recent weeks, Amazon made its first automated drone delivery in the UK and the company has also obtained a patent for an airborne fulfilment centre. This will, in effect, be a floating zeppelin airship that will be a kind of mothership for the worker drones.

You’ve been warned.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years