Developers close in on systems to move products off shelves and into boxes, as retailers aim to automate labor-intensive process
Robot developers say they are close to a breakthrough—getting a machine to pick up a toy and put it in a box.
It is a simple task for a child, but for retailers it has been a big hurdle to automating one of the most labor-intensive aspects of e-commerce: grabbing items off shelves and packing them for shipping.
Several companies, including Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. HBC +3.21% and Chinese online-retail giant JD.com Inc., JD +0.87% have recently begun testing robotic “pickers” in their distribution centers. Some robotics companies say their machines can move gadgets, toys and consumer products 50% faster than human workers.