Artificial intelligence and robotics are moving into Amazon’s white-collar workforce, Bloomberg says. Machines are now negotiating deals, and algorithms are predicting which products customers want and how much to charge for them.
Bloomberg reports that automation has been helping “create an e-commerce colossus” for Amazon, enabling anyone to price, market and sell their products on the digital giant’s site. This has reduced human interaction during transactions, and makes Amazon stand out from its competitors: “Nobody else has the resources and expertise to pull all of these emerging technologies together to remove humans from the process as much as possible while making things more reliable and accurate,” Joel Sutherland, a supply-chain management professor at the University of San Diego, told Bloomberg.
As a result, the company needs fewer people to manage retail operations; many of its “expensive employees” have moved on to other jobs or companies, and the tedious aspects of factory work are moving from people to machines. Amazon employees and decision makers alike are happier with these shifts, and recognize that it is a better model: “Faith in the technology grew as it improved. Workers were happy to see tedious tasks like managing inventory spreadsheets delegated to machines that did the work more quickly and accurately,” Bloomberg says.
What decision makers should keep in mind:
While humans are still needed for some pieces of Amazon’s supply-chain, they are slowly being bested by automation. Bloomberg says that automation is making the business less interesting for employees. For example: “The team that created exciting new initiatives like the two-hour delivery service Prime Now and the cashier-less AmazonGo convenience store now have fewer things to work on. There was a rare round of layoffs earlier this year and a retrenching of the grocery delivery service Amazon Fresh in November.”
Based on how things are going, humans are needed less and less. Decision makers considering a similar route with automation should keep an eye on Amazon; they can evaluate how the company fares with the decreasing amount of employees, and if taking a similar route will help or hurt their own business. Decision makers can also use Amazon as an example of how employee positions are evolving, and which ones are being eliminated. Doing so can help prepare the human workforce of a company for position shifts and new workflows in the future, which can play a role in the business’s success in the marketplace.