Amazon has unveiled the latest robot for its warehouse. “Sparrow is the first automated system in our warehouse that can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory,” she says. The robotic arm uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to identify and manipulate millions of items, according to Amazon.
The company says that by employing robots in its warehouses, it can conduct operations more efficiently and safely. “Sparrow will take on repetitive tasks, enabling our employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also enhancing safety,” Amazon said. “At the same time, Sparrow will help us boost efficiency by automating an important part of our fulfillment process so we can continue to deliver to customers.” She added that by employing bots, she was able to create more than 700 new job categories.
Amazon doesn’t have a completely clean slate of record when it comes to conditions for warehouse workers, especially when it comes to robotics. In 2020, the Center for Investigative Reporting reported that between 2016 and 2019, the rate of serious injuries to Amazon employees in robotic warehouses was 50 percent higher than in facilities without robots.
According to the report, the use of bots has increased Amazon’s quotas for workers, requiring them to scan up to 400 items per hour when they previously had to scan 100 items. “Professionals who say the company used robots to increase production quotas to the point that humans can’t keep up without hurting themselves,” the report says.
Last July, it emerged that the US government was conducting a search on Amazon for allegedly unsafe working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted inspections “relating to, among other things, the pace of work required at Amazon for warehouse employees.”
Amazon revealed Sparrow amid a campaign by warehouse workers to standardize their workplaces, with robots taking over the tasks in some cases. In March, workers at the JFK8 Center on Staten Island voted to join a union, becoming the first Amazon warehouse to do so. The company contested the election result. Recently, workers at an Albany warehouse in New York voted against unions after Amazon launched an anti-union campaign.
In another context, Amazon has been hit by a strong crisis over the past few months, losing about 50% of its value since the beginning of this year.
Financial market experts attributed this to concerns about the future of the company’s business amid an unprecedented acceleration of inflation that the United States has not witnessed in 40 years, which recorded 8.2% last September, offset by record increases in interest rates on federal funds, which led to a stagnation in the markets.