Shreveport, La. is the latest site for the construction of a new Amazon robotics fulfillment center, according to a recent announcement. The 650,000 square-foot site is the first of its kind in the state of Louisiana, and is expected to create 800 construction jobs and 1,000 full-time warehouse jobs starting at $15/hour. The facility, will be responsible for smaller customer items such as books, toys, electronics and other household items, using robots to assist employees with tasks like carrying shelves of products from worker to worker across massive warehouse spaces, reading barcodes on the ground for directions along the way to travel in place of workers that would have walked an equivalent of 10 miles per day. For context, the facility in Shreveport will be the largest of seven operating Amazon facilities.
“Amazon may be a global business, but it’s made up of small businesses and communities. From the local jobs we bring, to the local people we employ, train, and upskill—our business is made up of people from communities like Shreveport,” said William Hicks, Regional Director of Operations at Amazon in a press release statement. “We’re thrilled to be able to expand our operations in Northwest Louisiana and we look forward to becoming part of the fabric of the local community.”
The new fulfillment center is the most recent manifestation of Amazon’s investment into Louisiana, according to the press release: “Amazon’s worldwide fulfillment network supports businesses of all sizes through its Fulfillment by Amazon offering, and many of those local businesses are based in Louisiana. There are more than 14,500 independent authors and small and medium-sized businesses in the state are growing their businesses and reaching new customers with Amazon.”
But what does a robotics fulfillment center mean with regard to the impact of automation on jobs in the American labor force? It’s no secret that Amazon has invested heavily into robotics and other automation tech, but could implementing a robot army to perform menial tasks eliminate the need for human workers over time?
“The thing that really makes us unique as human beings is our ability to solve problems,” Martin Ford, author of The Rise of Robots, told Vox’s Jason Del Ray for an episode of the Land of the Giants: The Rise of Amazon podcast. “Machine learning and related technologies are for the first time allowing machines to do that and to compete with that capability. That’s really kind of a game-changer.”
“In the meantime, robots have the potential to eliminate some of the most menial warehouse labor, as evidenced by the Amazon robots that now transport products across massive warehouses in place of workers who used to be forced to walk the equivalent of 10 or more miles a day,” continued Del Ray. “That sounds like a good thing, but new research indicates these robots may be increasing worker injury rates, even though they’re taking on some of the hard labor.”
Construction on the $200 million facility will start in the fall of 2021 and is expected to be complete by September of 2022. Amazon will start hiring employees for the Shreveport facility in summer of 2022, about three months before the opening.