Robots work alongside humans at Amazon distribution center

Schertz fulfillment center employs 500 and growing

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SCHERTZ, Texas - Inside Amazon's sprawling warehouse just off Interstate 35, a legion of squatty, bright orange robots zips and zooms across the concrete, working in choreographed concert with the humans.

"There's a lot going on here all the time," said Janae Dillon, who began work there six months ago.

At more than 1.2 million square feet, roughly the size of 26 football fields, the fulfillment center in Schertz is one of the online retail giant's largest.

Although it launched operations more than a year ago, the center opened its doors for a first peek to a tour that included the governor and other dignitaries.

"It's out of this world," Gov. Greg Abbott said.

It's a world that employs the latest in robotics. Robo-Stow, a six-ton yellow robotic arm hoists entire pods of products 24 feet into the air to the second level.

"The robots make life easier for the associates," said Mike Roth, vice president of North American operations.

The robots increase productivity and efficiency, according to Roth, because instead of the workers trekking miles of aisles to pluck an item off of a shelf, the orange robots by Kiva Systems, bring the entire pod of products to the worker.

Watching the robots traverse across the floor is like observing a game of Tetris. They move at about four miles an hour, pausing to let a fellow robot pass. Infrared sensors keep them from crashing into anything. They navigate a giant grid by scanning codes on the floor, and it's all controlled by a centralized computer.

"The associates really like the robots," Roth said, adding the robots will not replace the people.

"As long as we can identify what the robots do better and what the humans like to do, we have the perfect world," he said.

Currently, the center has 500 full-time employees. Roth said he expects the center's operations to expand, and will continue to add employees over the coming years.

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