In a bid to optimize its shipping processes and minimize the number of damaged items reaching customers, Amazon has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) technology pilot in two of its largest warehouses, the Wall Street Journal reports.
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By implementing this innovative solution, the ecommerce giant aims to expedite the picking and packing stages while improving overall shipping performance through automation.
Traditionally, Amazon employees are responsible for inspecting items for any signs of damage or wear before shipping, all while meeting the company’s performance targets.
This manual inspection process is time-consuming, prompting Amazon to leverage automation and employ AI to mitigate shipment issues while enhancing productivity.
Early results have shown that the AI system is three times more effective at identifying damage than a warehouse worker.
During the picking and packing procedure, items are placed in bins and then sent through an imaging station that verifies the items are in sellable condition.
If an item exhibits damage, it is flagged and passed on to a worker for closer examination. Undamaged items clear the imaging station and proceed to be packed and dispatched to the respective customers.
To train the AI, Amazon utilized images of undamaged items as a reference, enabling the technology to flag products that require further inspection by a human.
Amazon Damaged Goods Problem Not Huge – But at Scale It Makes a Difference
While the occurrence of problem items appears relatively small, with Amazon stating that less than 1 out of 1,000 items show signs of damage, the company’s massive scale of operations, processing approximately 8 billion items per year, highlights the potential impact.
Even a 0.1% reduction in damaged goods could translate to around 8 million items that are spared from being sent to customers, thereby potentially reducing returns or exchanges of damaged items.
Amazon’s widespread implementation of AI in its logistics operations is driven by the company’s need to address the larger issue of finding sufficient workers to staff its fulfillment centers.
Additionally, artificial intelligence can support various other aspects of the supply chain and logistics operations, ensuring the smooth and fast movement of goods to customers.
Currently, Amazon has introduced the AI technology at two fulfillment centers. It plans to expand the pilot program to ten centers in North America and Europe.
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