When efficiency is a company’s ultimate goal, pairing up robots and humans could make for a dangerous game.
The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal analyzed internal records from more than 150 Amazon warehouses and found that injury rates increased each of the past four years. Those injury rates were 50% higher at warehouses with robots.
Are cobots dangerous?
Not necessarily. The numbers here are correlational. Production quotas spiked because robots are fast workers—and, according to the investigation, humans couldn’t keep up without hurting themselves.
- One common warehouse role previously involved scanning ~100 items/hour. Alongside robots, the expectation was ~400/hour.
In response, Amazon disputed Reveal’s “serious injury” classification and said numbers were inflated by the recuperation time it grants.
The flip side: Automation can boost safety in some warehouse settings. Robotics startups are working towards that goal. Two examples:
- Sarcos Robotics, which specializes in wearable robotic exoskeletons, teamed up with Delta Air Lines in January to help employees lift heavy machinery, move freight, and more.
- Veo Robotics’s software acts as the “eyes and ears” of robotic arms in factories, helping them detect and avoid humans.
This tech won’t necessarily make aggressive productivity goals safe, but it could help reduce any risk stemming from robots themselves.
Via Morning Brew