Amazon is king of optimizing workflows. From 1-click book purchasing to same day delivery, the optimization is real. It seems rather obvious that many of these gains are fruits from the massive data grove they have grown over time.
This brings me to the reporting of the recent wrist-band requirement for Amazon warehouse workers. Much of the coverage I have read focuses around the theme of, “Amazon wants to wring out more from their low paid transient workers.” While this may be the case, it misses the much bigger point. Amazon can’t scale if it simply improves efficiency by a few percent, it is always working on both incremental and step-level improvement functions. Knowing when someone works or how utilized they are may be side-effect of the wrist bands, but not the primary motivator.
Amazon wants to train robots on how to pack more efficiently. Where are the robots you may ask? Instead of building expensive robots and training them on the job with higher failure rates, why not train in software and back test against real world data? I bet these wrist bands are going to be used as training data to improve packing algorithms for the soon to be announced packing robot. Additionally they could be used to improve the intra-warehouse workflows as well.