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2/23/2016 8:40:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Amazon to Open Minnesota Warehouse Staffed by ‘Hundreds’ of Robots

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News Inc. on Feb. 19 showed off the interior of its Shakopee, Minnesota, fulfillment facility that later this year will teem with “hundreds and hundreds” of robots assisting about 1,000 humanoid employees.

The facility, covering 20 acres — or just under 1 million square feet — will become the online retailer’s 14th “robotics fulfillment facility” notable for flattened orange machines that do fetching chores for their biological overlords.

The fulfillment center will be the point of origin for smaller items — such as books and DVDs — and is intended to expedite shipping of such merchandise to customers, many but not all in the Twin Cities.

“The center enables us to deliver a higher amount of items with faster delivery,” said Amazon’s Brian Urkiel, who oversees work on the facility.

The Shakopee complex has been in the works since late last year. Amazon declined to be more specific about when operations there are scheduled to begin.

But on Feb. 19, the fulfillment center had the look of a facility that is rapidly nearing completion, though it still is being called an “active construction site.”

A portion with four levels — the robots’ kingdom, mainly — is in place. So is a separate section with two levels where the human workforce primarily will congregate.

Such fulfillment centers have a two-stage system, with the robots grabbing “pods” containing consumer products and ferrying them to workers, who engage in the more complex series of “picking, stowing and counting” procedures.

The robots, weighing 320 pounds each and capable of lifting about 750 pounds, read bar codes on the flooring to figure out their locations as they scuttle about with their merchandise-laden pods. Amazon isn’t saying how many of these robots will be deployed in Shakopee, using only the phrase “hundreds and hundreds.”

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By Julio Ojeda-Zapata
Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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