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13 Dec 2022

How Amazon is innovating Supply Chain Automation

The retail giant Amazon has changed the face of its industry through the years. The company’s success can be found in the management of the…

The retail giant Amazon has changed the face of its industry through the years. The company’s success can be found in the management of the internal and external supply chain processes and in Amazon’s automation investment. The company has long looked ahead to streamline, automate, and otherwise supercharge its logistics and supply chain to outperform its competitors.

Amazon built itself from the ground up and stayed relevant in the market for more than 20 years.
Everyone knows what the company is about. However, Amazon’s automation investments and Amazon’s warehouse automation are somewhat unclear, although they are the number-one reason for Amazon’s continued success.

A look into Amazon Warehouse Automation

Through automation investments and warehouse automation, Amazon took the eCommerce world by storm and drastically changed the supply chain automation industry. From new robotic systems and Prime Air drones to vehicle safety technology for drivers, we take a look into how Amazon is innovating supply chain automation.

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fulfillment with warehouse automation

An essential part of the fulfillment process happens during inventory selection before items are even packaged for shipment to customers. Amazon warehouse automation allows the handling of the inventory by employees with the aid of robotic arms, called Robin and Cardinal. Streamlining these processes allowed Amazon to speed up the fulfillment of the order before the package even gets shipped.

Another key implementation part of Amazon’s warehouse automation is Sparrow: the company’s first robotic handling system that detects, selects, and moves individual products in the inventory. The robotic system significantly advances item-handling processes and how robotic arms can be used in fulfillment operations. Sparrow uses computer vision and AI to recognize and handle millions of items, not without the need for human support. Sparrow works alongside Amazon’s employees, letting the workers focus on more essential parts of the processes and simultaneously making the operations safer.

Improving the delivery driver experience

Innovating all the stages of order fulfillment is at the core of Amazon’s success, and the reason for Amazon’s automation investment. The next step in the process is customer delivery. Amazon implemented electric delivery vehicles from Rivian that improve the work experience for Delivery Service Partner (DSP) drivers and reduces carbon emissions in the communities where they deliver. The vehicles, built from the ground up with input from DSPs, are designed to include a suite of innovative safety features like sensor detection, traffic assist technology, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and collision warnings.

The company estimates that by 2030, 100,000 electric delivery vehicles will be operational, thus eliminating millions of metric tons of carbon YoY.

Introducing drones in the Supply Chain

While the company invests in automation for the delivery options we have right now, Amazon is also looking at the future. Amazon Prime Air is an autonomous electric drone system that can deliver packages under 5 pounds in less than an hour from click to delivery. While the initiative remains gated for US soil only, the company envisions the delivery of 500 million packages by drone to tens of millions of customers annually by the end of this decade.

These massive advancements in warehouse automation and fulfillment delivery were pushed by Amazon’s automation investment. The company has created a $1 billion venture investment program called the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF) aimed at supporting innovation in customer fulfillment, logistics, and the supply chain.

If Amazon wants to maintain its role as a leader in its sector, as customers increasingly shop online and look for even faster delivery, the company needs to continue to invent new ways to raise the bar on customer and employee experience in collaboration with companies that share the same mission. The fund that Amazon created focuses on wearable tech that improves safety in warehouses and robotics designed to complement and coexist with people’s lives.

Amazon’s collaborations

Here are some of the major companies that collaborated with Amazon in innovating warehouse automation:

  • Modjoul: Develops wearable safety technology that enables real-time, personalized alerts and recommendations aimed at reducing injuries, most notably musculoskeletal issues.
  • Vimaan: Develops computer vision and artificial intelligence solutions engineered to improve inventory management.
  • Agility Robotics: Develops a bi-pedal walking robot, Digit, that addresses the mobility limitations of traditional robots so that machines can assist people wherever they are.
  • BionicHIVE: Develops an autonomous robotic solution that can adapt to existing shelving racks and boxes in warehouses and is capable of floor-to-ceiling functionality.
  • Mantis Robotics: Develops a tactile robotic arm that uses sensor technology to cohesively work alongside people.

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The Bottom Line

Amazon is a retail giant and a leader in warehouse automation. The rate of innovations in supply chain management is unprecedented, making the market for competitors even more unforgiving. Amazon is forcing its major competitors to invest more in supply chain automation, cutting down on the overall product delivery time, increasing the number of warehouses, and in some cases even taking part in the product manufacturing process.

Amazon is also set on moving into brick-and-mortar retail, with its acquisition of Whole Foods. This further shows the trend of combing traditional retail and e-commerce strategies. In addition, with Amazon’s automation investment and warehouse investment, the company has changed the way supply chain management operates.

We are Storm5

In the rapidly growing supply chain and logistics space, there will be numerous opportunities for growth for startups and scaleups. Finding the right talent can be a difficult task, but that’s where Storm5’s expert supply chain and logistics recruiters come in. We have the best candidates in the market for positions in Sales and Marketing, Product Management, Data, and Engineering, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or submit a vacancy today!

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