Amazon buys Cloostermans in another move to expand its robotic workforce

In a further effort to accelerate the engagement of robots as part of its workforce; Amazon announced on Friday that it has acquired a Belgian company, Cloostermans, which designs technology to manage the flow of robots in warehouses.

The acquisition adds to the e-commerce giant’s investments in tools to automate its logistics network, a move that has seen a significant surge in recent times. Amazon has acquired other robots in Europe as its workforce dwindles amid labor disputes.

Although Amazon did not disclose details of the deal, Cloostermans will be added to the Amazon Robotics division launched in 2012.

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“We are excited to join the Amazon family and expand the impact we can have globally,” Cloostermans CEO Frederik Berckmoes-Joos said in a statement in a blog post published by Amazon. “Amazon has raised the bar for how supply chain technologies can benefit employees and customers, and we look forward to being part of the next chapter of this innovation.”

A decade after acquiring Kiva Systems, its first foray into robotics, Amazon has acquired iRobotm, Dispatch, Zoox and Canvas technologies in billion-dollar deals.

“Amazon’s investments in robotics and technology support how we build a better and safer workplace for our employees and deliver to our customers,” said Ian Simpson, vice president of global robotics at Amazon. , in a company blog post.

However, this push is believed to have been inspired by the labor shortage in the United States, which has recently seen the growing number of businesses shut down because they cannot find workers.

Cloostermans builds technology to move and stack heavy pallets and bins, and robotics used to package products for customer orders. Amazon has used these products or its e-commerce operation since 2019, making it a longtime customer of Cloostermans. The e-commerce leviathan said it was making the acquisition to accelerate its R&D and deployment in this area.

The technology, the company said, will help robots work alongside its warehouse workers, including improving worker safety and reducing packaging waste.

Amazon’s decade-long foray into robotics has seen the deployment of more than 520,000 robots in its warehouses. The company said it recently added its first fully autonomous mobile robot, which can maneuver around employees and doesn’t need to be restricted to certain areas of a warehouse.

Amazon’s romance with robot staff has been notable in the wake of Covid-19, which has come with an unprecedented surge in retail sales. With security restrictions limiting human contact, Amazon touted drone delivery.

But a lot has changed since then. With safety restrictions lifted as the waves of the pandemic die down, Amazon is easing its logistics expansion plan as the Covid-induced surge in e-commerce orders has fallen significantly.

However, Amazon has yet to successfully contain its labor slump. With growing unionization in its warehouses amid a staff shortage, it looks like robots will be an integral part of the company’s future as it relies on automation as part of its strategy to serve its markets. growing.

Cloostermans was founded in 1884 as a manufacturer of machinery for textile manufacturers and was redesigned over the years to serve as an engineering and automation company. Although Amazon hasn’t shared the terms of the deal, Cloostermans’ roughly 200 employees will likely be part of the deal – joining Amazon.

Michael A. Bynum