“Kermit” and “Scooter” aren’t quite ready for Prime time, but “Bert” and “Ernie” could soon be coming to an Amazon fulfillment center near you.
In a Sunday blog post, the online retail behemoth introduced the world to four robots it is testing to help employees reduce strenuous movements and improve overall warehouse safety.
Specifically, “Ernie” helps move items from a robotic shelf so that employees don’t have to, and “Bert” is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots, or AMRs, designed to navigate facilities independently, even while workers are moving around, CNBC reported.
“Scooter” and “Kermit,” also AMRs, remain under development and are designed to transport carts, in a bid to reduce physically strenuous activity and allow workers to focus on critical thinking skills, the network reported.
“Safety is our top priority with our employees. So, in 2020, we invested over a billion dollars into safety and programs and processes around movement and ergonomics. This year, we are doing an additional $300 million investment,” Kevin Keck, Amazon’s director of advanced technology, told CBS News.
Keck’s team also invited “Sunday Morning” correspondent David Pogue to spend a day in one of the company’s three Robotics and Advanced Technology labs near Seattle.
The other two research laboratories are in Boston and northern Italy, according to the blog post.
Maeghan Hudon, this facility’s product-development director, told Pogue that roughly 40% of injuries reported by Amazon workers are musculoskeletal in nature.
“Sprains and strains and things that come from repetitive motion,” Hudon told Pogue, noting her team affixes 17 orange transmitters onto volunteer employees of various shapes and sizes to gauge their movements in a given day.
“You see your movements? The one on the right is your right shoulder, and the one on the left is how your back is moving, so when you bend, when you twist, when you move side-to-side, it’s understanding how you’re moving,” Hudon told Pogue.
The lab setting has already indicated that Amazon can reduce injuries simply by adjusting the handle positions on the totes employees use to move orders around warehouses, she said.
Amazon announced in May its goal of reducing recordable incident rates by 50% by 2025, CNBC reported.
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