Tuesday, January 31

Amazon can reduce injuries to its warehouse employees. But you won’t get your order in 24 hours

Amazon warehouse workers suffer a high number of injuries, as we have previously explained in Engadget. Approximately 6.8 serious cases per 100 professionals per year. And much of the blame lies with the pressure these employees face to be more productive and, above all, faster, as Wall Street Journal journalist Christopher Mims explains in his latest book, ‘Arriving Today’, a work to which El País has had access.

extreme speed. Mims points out that the constant repetitive movements and pressure to which Amazon workers are subjected are the cause of a good part of these injuries, and that the e-commerce giant has in its power to considerably reduce the physical damage suffered by its employees.

But it does not, because that would have a very detrimental consequence for the business: they would lose speed, a hallmark of the e-commerce, which could reduce your sales by disappearing one of your main value propositions. In order for us to have packages in less than 24 hours, the warehousemen have to continue to be extremely fast.

Likewise, we must bear in mind that this speed is also essential to move a global business of the monstrous dimensions of the ecommerce that concerns us: those of Jeff Bezos receive approximately 10 million orders a day. A huge volume that would be very difficult to manage efficiently were it not for the diligence and speed that Amazon demands of its warehouse workers.

And the technology? The American journalist explains that much of the success of Amazon’s fast model is based on a large number of automated processes that are executed by machines. But, for everything to work correctly in this accelerated gear, the human being continues to be a fundamental and irreplaceable piece. And not because there is no technology that can replace us in these heavy and repetitive tasks, but because these advances are still slower than a person.

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Mims assures that, in tasks as simple as changing products from one tape to another based on their labeling or loading trucks, humans are still faster than machines because technology has not yet been able to reproduce the fast and precise coordination between our brains. and our hands on a robot. Therefore, at the moment people are irreplaceable in many of Amazon’s logistics tasks.

The Algorithm. The efficiency of the Amazon logistics chain is configured through an algorithm that aims to eliminate any problem, mismatch or delay in the process, both for machines and people. Something that has already caused some inconveniences in the past, since the tool is so demanding, many have identified it as a decisive factor in the injuries they have suffered due to repetitive stress. Several employees have come to ensure that the software has even penalized them for going to the bathroom.

An accusation ratified last year by the Department of Labor and Industries of the State of Washington, in the United States, which, after an investigation of the facilities of the company founded by Bezos, concluded in a report that the pace of work that Amazon expects from their workers is very high and that “employees are pressured to maintain that pace without adequate recovery time to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.”

A recurring complaint. The injuries of Amazon warehouse employees are a frequent complaint of these professionals, and one of the reasons that have led them to fight for unionization in the United States, since they associate them with the high pressures and pace of work at submitted by the e-commerce giant in its quest to be the fastest on the market.

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Amazon fights back. After repeated complaints about the high number of injuries to its warehouse workers, Amazon assures that it is taking measures to reduce these figures and last January reported that in 2021 it had invested 300 million dollars to improve the safety of its centers. of work.

Likewise, after the report from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the Bezoses said they were going to rethink their productivity measurement system and extend the downtime that the tools register as absence from the job, although they stressed that they were going to continue using it: “Seeing that an employee is not connected to software tools for long periods of time (typically more than half an hour) is a good indicator of operational systemic flaws and prompts managers to interact with the worker to understand what’s going on.”

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