Earlier this month, Amazon rolled out its new delivery service. Prime Now for several zip codes in Manhattan.
How does the service work?
Amazon achieved this incredible result thanks to a combination of impressive logistics (which we’ll talk about in a moment) and limited capacity. The footprint is tiny and it’s doubtful that, in its current form, Amazon will be able to provide it to the rest of the world, although they have some plans to expand to other areas near Amazon fulfillment centers in the next year or so. , Expanding beyond that will require going a little further.
The road to Silicon Valley is paved with the ancient remains of startups that tried to provide super-fast same-day delivery. The oldest skulls and fossilized Segways date back to the original dot-com boom, when companies like the infamous Kozmo.com tried to offer deliveries of thousands of hours per hour, only to run out of venture capital and fail. some years.
So what makes today different? What changed?
The answer is that over the past decade, the critical mass of necessary technologies has grown to finally make the dream of instant gratification a reality.
Extending this service to Amazon and its competitors will require all of this technology to work together.
It works like this: the entire warehouse is controlled by software that has a huge database of what items it has in its stomach and where they are located. He can manipulate the world with hundreds of sixteen-inch (three hundred and twenty pounds) tall robots (manufactured by Amazon called Kiva Systems) that move smoothly around the facility, pick up storage shelves, and move them to where they are. necessary. When you order an item, the robots shuffle the shelves until the nearest copy shelf appears, and then they are taken to the packing center, where a human worker puts it in a box, tapes it, and sends it down the ramp to the truck.
This has many benefits. It’s cheap to start with. The robots are robust, mechanically simple, and can charge themselves, meaning they don’t require any human attention to operate. On top of that, because warehouses don’t have to be people-centric, you can allocate more storage space, but still reduce the time it takes to find and get the item you need. All this reduces the total turnaround time at the facility to a few minutes.