Amazon is gearing up for a busy holiday shopping season and is increasing its workforce by 40 percent, or 120,000 temporary workers.
The additional staffers will supplement Amazon's U.S. warehouses from November through December, the peak period for holiday sales.
Instead of training its new temporary employees over several weeks, Amazon will reportedly reply on technology ranging from touch screens to robots so it can reduce the training time to just two days, The Wall Street Journal reports.
A traditional warehouse job typically entails six weeks of training so the new hires learn the ropes. Shrinking that training period to just a couple of days requires some innovative techniques to help new employees do their job faster.
How Does It Work?
Amazon's latest facilities feature the most automation, employing screens, scanners, robots and other technology designed to get workers going as soon as possible, WSJ explains, citing John Olsen, Amazon VP of human resources, worldwide developments.
New hires get hands-on training on their very first day on the job, whereas at traditional warehouses, new employees would spend the first day in a classroom. With the help of technology, new workers can easily learn how to pack shipments, what box size to use, how to identify the item they need to find and how much tape they need to finish packing the shipment. All of this information will be provided by touch screens, significantly reducing the time a new employee would otherwise need to learn how to pack shipments.
A substantially shorter training period shrunk down to a couple of days instead of six weeks could help Amazon make notable savings, which in turn could allow the company to increase wages while also boosting its workforce by 40 percent during the peak holiday season.
Tight Labor Market
However, the WSJ points out that the tight labor market also poses a challenge to Amazon, as the retailer has to compete for workers with other rivals such as Walmart and package-delivery companies such as UPS since everyone's looking to staff up for the holidays.
Amazon expects its holiday sales to increase as much as 27 percent this season compared to last year, reaching a high-end range of $45.5 billion. The company built 26 new warehouses this year alone, for a total of 149 warehouses worldwide.
Technology and automation greatly increase efficiency at a warehouse but also require human workers to get things in motion.
"The newest warehouses, filled with robots, require a higher head count than older sites because the greater efficiency allows them to process even more orders, a task that still requires humans."
Robots Do The Heavy Lifting
The WSJ further explains how robots help human workers at the fulfillment centers Amazon has in DuPont, Washington. A massive yellow robot arm moves pallets full of items on the second story of the warehouse, while new employees get safety training on the mezzanine, learning various safety techniques such as how to properly lift packages without straining their backs.
Orange robots the size of pallets, meanwhile, move at a faster speed than humans and carry shelves full of items to stations where workers can find them. Workers can look at a screen for information on the item they need and see how it looks like and where it's located so they can easily get it off the shelf quickly and accurately.
Once workers pick off an item from a robot-carried shelf, they scan the item, and a light flashes to indicate the suitable container for it. According to Olsen, the technology "automates almost everything," which is why Amazon can cut the training time to just two days instead of a lengthy six weeks.