Some of the secrets behind Amazon’s phenomenal success as an online retailer can be discovered inside a million-square-foot warehouse that sits amid bucolic scenery in the town of Robbinsville, New Jersey. The building is one of Amazon’s most advanced fulfillment centers, and it houses technologies that allow the company to deliver products to customers at amazing speed. Goods are identified, sorted, and packaged with computer-assisted precision, while employees work in tight collaboration with the plant’s automated systems in shifts that run around the clock.
Upon arrival, each new product is identified using a computer vision system that catalogues it rapidly, feeding its weight and dimensions into a central tracking system. At the heart of the building, items stored on tall, square shelves are kept stocked by humans working with a team of 2,000 squat orange robots. The robots zip around the storage area, picking up shelves and either arranging them in neat rows for storage or bringing them over to the human workers, who stack or pick from them. Further along the fulfillment line, workers charged with packing up orders for shipping are automatically given the optimal size of shipping box and even the correct amount of packing tape. Before those boxes are sent to trucks, a system weighs them to make sure the correct products are inside.
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