Amazon is expanding its use of supply chain automation with a new purchase.
The e-tail giant has signed an agreement to acquire Cloostermans.Based in Belgium, Cloostermans designs and manufactures mechatronics solutions, robotic technology that Amazon will use to help move and stack heavy palettes and totes, or package products together for customer delivery.
Amazon began working with Cloostermans in 2019, and seeks to leverage the company’s automated technology to more rapidly deploy solutions that will improve warehouse efficiency and safety, and also help reduce packaging waste.
“Amazon’s investments in robotics and technology are supporting how we build a better and safer workplace for our employees and deliver for our customers,” said Ian Simpson, VP of global robotics at Amazon. “As we continue to broaden and accelerate the robotics and technology we design, engineer and deploy across our operations, we look forward to welcoming Cloostermans to Amazon and are excited to see what we can build together.”
“We’re thrilled to be joining the Amazon family and extending the impact we can have at a global scale,” said Frederik Berckmoes-Joos, CEO of Cloostermans. “Amazon has raised the bar for how supply chain technologies can benefit employees and customers, and we’re looking forward to be part of the next chapter of this innovation.”
Amazon deploys robots in supply chain
Amazon has more than 520,000 robotic drive units worldwide. The company employs more than a dozen types of robotic systems in its supply chain facilities around the world, including sort centers and air hubs. In June 2022, Amazon announced “Proteus,” its first fully autonomous mobile robot. Proteus moves autonomously through Amazon’s fulfillment and sort facilities using advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology developed by Amazon.
The Proteus robot was built to be automatically directed to perform its work and move around employees, meaning it has no need to be confined to restricted areas. Amazon also introduced Cardinal, a robotic lifting arm that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to efficiently select one package out of a pile of packages, lift it, read the label, and precisely place it in a cart.
Leveraging Cardinal, Amazon says it can sort packages earlier in the shipping process with reduced risk of employee injury, resulting in faster process time in the facility. And based on feedback from employees, the company created Amazon Robotics Identification (AR ID), an AI-based scanning capability with computer vision and ML technology to enable easier scanning of packages in supply chain facilities.
In addition, to reduce the need for employees to reach up, bend down, or climb ladders when retrieving items, the company is developing a robotic Containerized Storage System designed to deliver products to employees in a more ergonomic manner. The solution determines which pod has the container with the needed product, where that container is located in the pod, how to grab and pull the container to the employee, and how to pick it up once the employee has retrieved the product.
Cloostermans’s approximately 200 employees will join the Amazon Global Robotics division in Europe. Completion of this transaction is subject to closing conditions.