For many online retailers, Cyber Monday is likely to be the peak shopping day of the year. To handle the onslaught of orders, Amazon has begun rolling out a new robot army.
The Amazon order-fulfillment center in Tracy is more than 1 million square feet — or 28 football fields, if you prefer — filled with orange and yellow bins flying this way and that on conveyor belts. Chances are, if you ordered a bunch of items in the Bay Area recently, Amazon put that box together here.
"Whether it's consumables or toys or electronics, with 3,500,000 items plus in this building, the odds are, pretty much anything you wanted was likely here," says Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.
At most warehouses, goods are held on shelves, and it's up to humans to go out into them to stock or retrieve stuff. But with technology that Amazon acquired when it purchased Kiva Systems in March 2012, the goods move to the humans. Orange robots the shape and size of ottomans zip under shelves, lift them up and whisk them to stations where people like Amazon's Reginaldo Rosales are waiting.
As each shelf arrives next to Rosales, packed to the gills with all sorts of items, a computer terminal displays the specific thing he's supposed to grab — in this case a thermometer — and where on the shelves it is.