Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at 7:38 AM
There's been a fair amount of reporting on brutal working conditions in Amazon's U.S.-based warehouses, but those days of toil may be coming to an end as Amazon announces a $775 million all-cash takeover of Kiva Systems, a maker of warehouse robots.
Kiva's technology is already used by Gap, Crate & Barrel, Staples, and Walgreens and Amazon says existing customers will continue to get service. Kiva's robots don't make human warehouse work unnecessary, but they do reduce the need for this particularly arduous form of human labor. You can see the video here. Along with taking criticism in the press for poor working conditions, Amazon is under pressure in the investment community about the fact that its workforce has been growing faster than its revenues and profit margins have shrunk to razor-thin levels. Finding a way to dramatically increase distribution productivity would do an enormous amount to turn things around.