By Trey Granger on Feb 23, 2010

Robot Workers Reduce Carbon Footprint, But Eliminate Jobs

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The Kiva Mobile Fulfillment System enables extremely fast cycle times with reduced labor requirements, from receiving to picking to shipping—all without conveyor. Photo: Kiva Systems

The Kiva Mobile Fulfillment System enables extremely fast cycle times with reduced labor requirements, from receiving to picking to shipping—all without conveyor. Photo: Kiva Systems

We can’t make this stuff up. Crate and Barrel has a new employee at its Tracy, Calif. distribution complex: a machine that is able to handle much of the manual labor that would otherwise be handled by office workers.

While the main function is to increase productivity, these robots are also being marketed as a way to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, according to a recent press release.

The machines are produced by Kiva Systems, which provides a few energy benefits. For example, each system use the same amount of electricity as a laptop computer, and they automatically shut off when not in use. All units are battery powered and can operate eight hours on a single charge, which eliminates any vampire power.

For Crate and Barrel, a few hundred robots will handle much of the labor of a facility that distributes orders to 13 different states. Other companies that have used the systems in their distribution centers include Saks, Staples and Zappos.com.

A study by the University of California at Berkeley found that a U.S. worker uses 64 MJ (1 million joules) of energy per hour, which equals 2.9 kWh of energy use. For those who didn’t major in physics, a joule is the amount of energy required to produce one watt of power for one second.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a laptop uses only 50 Watts of energy, so eight hours of work would equate to .4 kWh of energy use. That’s more than seven times less energy used.

But while the energy saved may be notable, is it worth eliminating jobs during a recession? We’ll let you decide.

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Comments

  1. Ed says

    According to this company, these robots do everything including cure cancer and AIDS. The real truth is there are technologies that do a better job of allowing companies to order pick efficiently for a fraction of the cost and higher reliability… and with much higher reductions in carbon footprint. As these 6′ carts run around a warehouse they are wasting every inch of space from 6′ to 20 or 30 feet high most often. Their claim can be energy neutral, but when you factor in the floor space they waste exactly where does their reducing carbon footprint come from?

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