New handling robot deployed as Amazon accelerates warehouse automation

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US online retailer Amazon has announced the introduction of a new robotic arm, named Sparrow, to handle the millions of items the company claims to process every year in its fulfilment centres.

On the decision to implement increased automation, a company spokesperson said: “Amazon has millions of products of all shapes and sizes in our inventory…that’s why we are thrilled to introduce Sparrow, our newest robotic system that significantly advances item handling in our operations.

“Sparrow is the first robotic system in our warehouses that can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory.”

The industrial robot was designed to leverage computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to support the company in its handling of millions of packages on a daily basis.

Sparrow will work alongside human employees and take on repetitive tasks to free up time and support staff to perform other value-adding roles. It was likewise chosen to enable increased efficiency by automating parts of the fulfilment process to improve throughput.

As part of its commitment to increasing use of robotics and automation, the retailer also runs the Amazon Mechatronic and Robotics Apprenticeship.

“I started part time with Amazon six years ago loading trailers, a position that was a great fit at the time after having spent 18 years raising my two children,” said Kelly Monroe, a Mechatronics Technician at Amazon.

“When Amazon introduced the Mechatronics and Robotics Apprenticeship program in 2020, I knew this would be the next step in my career at Amazon.”

The program is a 12-week apprenticeship followed by 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and is intended to help train more of its employees for technical maintenance roles.

Since its first introduction of a workforce robot in 2012, Amazon has since deployed a reported 520,000 robotic units globally across a range of warehouse applications.

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