At the recent Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Olivier Klein from Amazon revealed how the e-retail giant organises its warehouses using artificial intelligence.
Amazon uses robots to pick items from
its warehouse shelving
. Items are not stored by category as used in most warehouses, but by customer buying patterns. Customers that buy one item will often by other items that are related, but not necessarily in the same category.
The main information an Amazon robot needs is where an item is located, rather than what type of item it is. If a necklace is placed next to a power drill, this is of no concern to the robot as it knows exactly which location any item is stored in.
Amazon robots communicate with each other, updating their location. The system prevents a queue of robots forming at the same shelving area. They also have sensors to make sure that there are no robot collisions.
Klein said that efficiency and route planning drive the way the robots behave. They are built by Kiva Systems, which is owned by Amazon. They have their limits, being incapable of fine manipulation. Amazon warehouses do still have human staff, and robots collaborate with them to fulfil customer orders.
Many companies do not have the budget for warehouse robots with the sophistication of Amazon’s, but a well-ordered warehouse and a computer database enable items to be located quickly and efficiently.
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