Online Wholesaler Boxed Is Adding Robots And Keeping Its Workers


Boxed, an online wholesaler, is all about convenience. It allows customers to stock up on essentials, from toilet paper to La Croix, save money by buying in bulk and save a trip to a store such as BJs, Costco or Sam’s Club by having items delivered.

To provide this experience at scale, Boxed has four fulfillment centers across the U.S. At each of these locations, dozens of full-time employees retrieve or pick items and pack them into boxes to be shipped to customers’ homes (similar to how Amazon does it). The average order includes nine items, and Boxed employees spend a lot of time and energy walking to different aisles within the warehouse to gather the right goods.

While Boxed has built software systems that help optimize paths and minimize repeat trips to the same aisles, that’s just the beginning of the company’s efforts to improve efficiency in its fulfillment centers — a task many ecommerce companies face.

Boxed is just one example of a company that’s flipping the grim narrative about automation by committing to keeping its workers employed. Others that have boasted zero layoffs amid automation are Evian and Accenture. Evian, for example, replaced manual forklifts with automated shuttles when it opened its new bottling plant, then retrained forklift drivers to become technicians. In total, the company offered 30,000 hours of retraining for its workers, and it hired 200 additional people when the plant opened, TriplePundit reports.

And then there’s Amazon. In 2012, the company acquired a company called Kiva for its bots that could navigate to inventory pods and autonomously drive them to human packers. For the past three years, the retail giant has held an annual Robotics Challenge to encourage the development of new technologies to automate other aspects of the fulfillment, including picking inventory.

Despite these efforts, there are still hundreds of thousands of jobs for humans to do. Amazon recently announced it plans to hire 120,000 seasonal workers for the 2017 holiday season, many of whom will work in fulfillment and sorting. Nationwide, more than 960,000 people are employed in warehouse and storage roles, compared to about 675,000 in fall 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read the source article at Entrepreneur.