Online retailing giant Amazon likes to do things a little differently. So when it found it had $775m burning a hole in its pockets, it realised that the best way to spend it was – on what else – a laser-guided robot drone army to man its vast warehouses.
Amazon has agreed to stump up the cash for warehouse picking and transport robot maker Kiva Systems – the brainchild of a former employee at dotcom poster child, Webvan.
Kiva chief executive Mick Mountz saw first-hand how Webvan's inability to get orders out of the doors quickly enough hamstrung the company. The MIT-trained engineer put his mind to devising a more forward-thinking approach to fulfilment.
And what better way, than through the use of robots?
Over the past 10 years, Kiva has landed a string a high-profile customers, including high street fashion retailer GAP.
The Kiva system relies on custom-designed facilities, so that its open floor space can be transformed into a information grid for its robots, which use a combination of 2D barcode stickers and a wireless network to navigate around a warehouse.
Amazon's aim is clear: Kiva's rack-shifting robots should help it reduce the cost of operating its warehouses.
“Amazon has long used automation in its fulfilment centres, said David Clark, vice president of global customer fulfilment, at Amazon.
But if that doesn't prove a fulfilling strategy, it can always just make the robots dance around its warehouses, which would look pretty good.
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