As Amazon Pushes Forward With Robots, Workers Find New Roles
September 11, 2017
Nissa Scott started working at the cavernous Amazon warehouse in southern New Jersey late last year, stacking plastic bins the size of small ottomans. It was not, she says, the most stimulating activity. And lifting the bins, which often weigh 25 pounds each, was also tiring over 10-hour shifts.
Now Ms. Scott, 21, watches her replacement — a giant, bright yellow mechanical arm — do the stacking.
Her new job at Amazon is to babysit several robots at a time, troubleshooting them when necessary and making sure they have bins to load. On a recent afternoon, a claw at end of the arm grabbed a bin off a conveyor belt and stacked it on another bin, forming neat columns on wooden pallets surrounding the robot. It was the first time Amazon had shown the arm, the latest generation of robots in use at its warehouses, to a reporter.
“For me, it’s the most mentally challenging thing we have here,” Ms. Scott said of her new job. “It’s not repetitive.”
Perhaps no company embodies the anxieties and hopes around automation better than Amazon. Many people, including President Trump, blame the company for destroying traditional retail jobs by enticing people to shop online. At the same time, the company’s eye-popping growth has turned it into a hiring machine, with an unquenchable need for entry-level warehouse workers to satisfy customer orders.