Amazon has had a busy year building on their already significant lead in the online retail market by revealing their new eighth-generation fulfillment center. The company is currently operating 10 of these new centers in the U.S., which speed up delivery times by utilizing new technology, including:
- Robo-Stow, one of the largest robotic arms on the planet moving large quantities of inventory for order fulfillment
- New vision systems that enable the unloading and receipt of an entire trailer of inventory in as little as 30 minutes
- High-end, graphically oriented computer systems for employees to fulfill customer orders with
- 45,000 autonomous robots that slide underneath shelves to pick up and carry as much as 750 pounds of merchandise
The autonomous fleet of orange robots may have made the largest impact of all by drastically reducing the time from order to shipment in Amazon warehouses by a whopping 80%. These weightlifting Roombas are governed by a central computer that communicates with navigation points on the warehouse floor, which has effectively improved warehouse capacity by 50%.
Headquartered in North Reading, Massachusetts, Amazon Robotics (previously Kiva Systems) was purchased in 2012 for $775 million and that acquisition has more or less paid for itself by cutting operating expenses by 20%. Amazon Robotics are also work their magic with a handful of other vendors like Staples, Gap, and Crate and Barrel.
Amazon’s innovation efforts don’t end there, though. They’ve also announced new clean energy initiatives and installed solar panels on fulfillment centers rooftops around the world. Fifteen of these large-scale solar systems will be completed by the end of 2017 and will generate up to 41 megawatts. That’s enough wattage to provide energy to almost 40,000 homes for an entire year!
With facilities in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada, and Delaware, each could generate as much as 80% of a facility’s annual energy needs. For example, solar panels installed on the rooftop of the Patterson, California, fulfillment center cover more than three-quarters of the 1.1 million square foot building’s rooftop and will capture California’s most generous resource to power the hundreds of Amazon Robotics utilized by associates at ground-level.
Amazon has also launched additional renewable energy projects, including the company’s largest wind farm to date, located in Texas. Other wind and solar farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia form a network that delivers energy to the electric grid that powers AWS data centers. These investments bring Amazon’s renewable energy generation to a total of 3.6 million Megawatts in 2017.
As a result of these efforts, Amazon’s net sales have increased by 27% over last year, to $136 billion. And during the first quarter of 2017, they expect net sales to be between $33.25 billion, between 14% and 23% growth compared with the first quarter of 2016.
In the future, Amazon will be rolling out additional services like Amazon Go, which was introduced in Seattle this year, offering a checkout-free store where customers simply take what they want and walk out. Amazon Prime Air is also in the works, delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using drone technology. When all was said and done, Amazon’s fulfillment centers delivered more than two billion units from sellers in more than 130 countries last year.