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Future e-commerce blueprint: UPS’ robot-driven warehouse

Future e-commerce blueprint: UPS’ robot-driven warehouse
Future e-commerce blueprint: UPS’ robot-driven warehouse

A giant United Parcel Service (UPS) warehouse is opening in Kentucky, and you’d imagine job adverts are splattered all over social media. No, not this time. Robots are lining up for this one, about 3,000 of them. 

Using robots means UPS can reduce the need for manual labor. Fortune is reporting that it can run the warehouse with only 200 workers, which will cut costs and risks. 

According to Bloomberg, employee retention could increase by 30%, with robots operating the 81,000-square-meter warehouse. It can also reduce workplace injuries significantly. 

Automation for repetitive tasks

UPS relies on robots for repetitive tasks, including sorting small packages and moving large containers. Bill Seward, president of supply chain solutions at the American multinational shipping firm, says they are embracing automation to supercharge efficiency.

“Across the globe, we’re revolutionizing our operations with cutting-edge automation technology to streamline repetitive tasks and boost throughput. These technologies, including our “co-bots” as we call them, are also making employees’ jobs easier, safer, and more enjoyable,” says Seward. He believes this innovation will optimize their operations and open the door for new possibilities for the future of supply chain management. 

He identifies the warehouse in Kentucky as a “ linchpin of our strategy” moment. Businesses are starting to value the importance of the automated space. Seward says it has an enormous value  to deliver the “best-in-class cost and best-in-class service for your customers.”

UPS Velocity’s 700 bots

Over 700 robots are in Velocity, which UPS plans to triple across its network next year. “Goods-to-person technology uses AI to arrange space for optimal speed and can even pick up inventory. And rack-to-person technology, developed by Geek+, optimizes storage by 30% compared to facilities without the tech,” says the postal firm. 

Geek+ sees it this way: “We believe the best working experience is one where machines do the heavy lifting and people do the problem-solving.”

Why work with robots? Lessons learned from UPS’ experience:

  • Faster and better: UPS Velocity ensures the orders are processed quicker to meet customers’ expectations. 
  • More items processed:  With the help of skilled team members, UPS Velocity can process over 350,000 items daily. This is significantly more than a non-automated warehouse. 
  • Multi-language technology: Technology in the facility understands more than 20 languages, which means the best people with different linguistic skills can work side by side.

Embracing automation is like “supercharging efficiency,” says Seward. Technology has the power to open up doors which we never knew existed. In a world where it’s normal for employees to feel threatened by technology, Seward says he is proud of his teams.

“[They] are constantly implementing the latest solutions that will not only optimize our operations but also create new possibilities for the future of supply chain management.”

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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