The term “robot” essentially means “worker”. It was coined by Czech author Karel Čapek in his science fiction work R.U.R. and since then it has become the standard term to define semi-autonomous machines.
It really is hard to define what we actually think of when we say robot. It may be an anthropomorphic fun figure such as Honda’s Asimo or a somewhat creepier animal version of it, such as Boston Dynamics’ Spot.
But it can also be a simpler and more applied machinery. Robots can be built to handle some of the most menial and repetitive tasks, including those that have to do with ecommerce fulfillment.
In terms of operations, fulfillment means everything that has to do with getting ordered merchandise to the customer. It includes picking and packing and let’s face it – it’s boring and repetitive. The robots below do just these things. Robots, unlike people, require no pay and are available 24/7. Whether using robots is effective or not, moral or not, it’s up to you to decide. But no matter your view on the subject, you have to admit they look awesome.
Fetch and Freight from Fetch Robotics make the company grow from less than 10 to more than 1500 employees in just 5 years
Back in early 2015, Fetch Robotics was startup company. They’ve received $3 million in founding and started working on a mysterious warehouse robotics project.
They’ve unveiled not one, but two robots aimed at helping warehouse staff make it through the long corridors. Their names: Fetch and Freight. Below is Freight, my favorite, a little guy following around picking staff and going back to base when orders are finished picking:
In 2020 they are beyond their Series C, with $94 million raised and over 1500 employees. Seems things are going great.
From 15 000 to 200 000 Kiva Robots in Amazon Warehouses in just 5 years
In 2012 Amazon paid $775 million for Kiva Systems, a Seattle based company manufacturing warehouse robots.
In just two years Amazon integrated the technology and in 2014 there were 15 000 Kiva robots doing the picking and packing job twice as fast as humans could. Inventory was moving twice as fast and products were delivered to packing stations in just under 15 minutes, faster than any human could.
In 2019 there were more than 200 000 robots handling orders in the Amazon Warehouses.
2020 update: The original article, written in 2015 presented Omniveyor from Harvest Automation but it seems it wasn’t all that successful.