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Symbiotic Supply Chain Management

Hello readers:

How many of you use the self-checkout line at the grocery store? How many of you still go grocery shopping? Do you instead use a grocery service like those provided by Walmart or Amazon? Today’s society is filled with service-oriented businesses and it appears that automation has taken center stage. For some companies however, the human element is still a crucial component. The article linked below comes from Will Knight, Senior Editor for AI from MIT Technology Review, describes one of the ways Amazon has innovated on its supply chain management (SCM) methodology.

First lets take a quick look at what SCM really means. Investopedia describes it as “the active streamlining of a business’s supply-side activities to maximize customer value and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace”. [2] These efforts can range anywhere from product development to delivery. According to Knight, Amazon has innovated it’s warehouses to incorporate human-robot symbiosis – that is to say humans and robots working together. Unlike more traditional warehouses where product sits on a shelf and is retrieved by a worker, the warehouse in Robbinsville, NJ has robotic shelves which can move products autonomously and interface directly with workers. [1]

The advantages of this emerging technology seem obvious.  Knight describes that the robots have the ability to automatically bring empty shelves or outgoing product to packers thus packaging can be completed more quickly since humans will not have to walk around or operate additional machinery. Additionally, stock & empty shelf space can be replaced more quickly and packed into tighter spaces. This type of human-robot interaction is a great example of how automation within supply chain management can have a positive impact on society. Productivity can be increased while reducing human labor thus improving Amazon’s ability to provide customers with the goods & services they need. This can lead to more members of society relying on the convenience of such services like grocery delivery in greater numbers. Human-Robot Symbiosis will give Amazon the infrastructure to support that demand.

– Nicholas Ordansa

[1] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/538601/inside-amazons-warehouse-human-robot-symbiosis/

[2] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/scm.asp


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