Last Friday, Amazon announced a partnership with e-commerce technology company, ShippingEasy, to bring Alexa virtual assistance to supply chain operations. Amazon frequently experiments with elements of its shipping structure. This particular integration is part of a larger effort to increase efficiency and accelerate shipping times to consumers.
Artificial intelligence in warehouses is nothing new. Organizations have long relied on smart robots to help manage a number of processes such as organizing inventory and physically transporting goods. However, the introduction of a voice-enabled assistant is a first for the industry.
The presence of Alexa in a warehouse setting has also been fairly limited until now. The majority of Alexa integrations have been largely deployed on applications meant exclusively for the home.
The platform will enable workers to perform hands-free actions such as printing labels, purchasing postage, confirming balances, and more shipping-related tasks.
The voice assistant is meant to make up for lost time while packagers are occupied with filling boxes or taping packages. Workers can make commands such as “Buy and print label” or ask, “What was my last order?”
Chief executive of ShippingEasy, Katie May, claims the conversational interface is “a huge innovation for people trapped today at a shipping station with a keyboard or bar code scanner.” The packing process would no longer have to be interrupted by workers manually inputting repeated directions to a computer.
A preview of how the assistant looks in action was released by ShippingEasy earlier today and can be seen below:
ShippingEasy is an Austin-based software company that operates as a subsidiary of Stamps.com after being acquired in 2016 for $55 million. The acquisition was a solid bet as increases in online shopping have placed fulfillment and distribution pressure on smaller to mid-size businesses and advances in AI technology appear to be filtering from consumers to businesses.
The software is currently being tested among 17 Austin-based companies as well as more businesses across the country. The platform is set to be officially available for download to Alexa-powered devices later this week.