Amazon may have found a way to streamline operations at its warehouses, but it won’t be good for some workers.
Reuters reported that the massive online retailer would start installing machines that box items before delivery at some of its fulfillment centers. According to the Reuters sources, the plan might be to install two such machines at “dozens” of warehouses, effectively replacing at least 24 human jobs at each warehouse.
In all, more than 1,300 workers could get cut if the plan goes through. The process would likely take some time as Amazon tries to perfect the technology and make sure it’s capable of operating smoothly, according to Reuters.
The machines can pack up to five times as many boxes as a human worker in an hour, per Reuters, so Amazon would theoretically save money over time with this move. Walmart is among the other companies that have deployed this technology.
Amazon has been sharply criticized for its treatment of human warehouse workers over the years. Accusations of low pay, inhumane conditions, and workplace injuries followed by inadequate care have dogged the company, which has routinely denied them. Workers in several countries went on strike on Black Friday last year to protest working conditions.
It even got to the point that some employees were apparently paid extra to defend Amazon on Twitter. Amazon did announce a minimum wage increase last year, and CEO Jeff Bezos implored the company’s competitors to do the same earlier this year.
Increased automation might be better for efficiency and Amazon’s bottom line, but it could open a whole new can of worms from the company’s harshest critics. Amazon has a large labor footprint in North America alone, claiming more than 125,000 full-time employees. Deliberately making cuts to that workforce could prove controversial.
Update: Monday, May 13, 8:20 p.m.: “We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times, and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokesperson told Mashable. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”