Robotics in Mail Processing

Robotics in mail processing

From automotive manufacturing to vacuum cleaners, machines have increasingly integrated themselves into performing functions humans used to perform not that long ago. Another production environment where automation has been employed to serve the public is in mail processing. With the increasing expansion of a new type of robot in manufacturing and research, could more functions within the Post Office be accomplished by non-human creations?

A new type of robot is being acquired by companies looking to increase productivity in a variety of applications. Affectionately called Baxter, the robot is designed to perform simple, repetitive tasks normally performed by humans. The manufacturer, Rethink Robotics, designed the unit to be human-friendly, capable of working side by side with people without the need for a protective cage. Rethink Robotics also claims that Baxter’s intuitive learning capability is easy to use with minimal setup time.

In practical applications, the robot has proven to be accurate and consistent in its assigned functions with no down time. Videos on the manufacturer’s website demonstrate Baxter loading items into boxes from a conveyor belt and packing them into tight formations, unloading items from boxes and placing them on a conveyor belt, assembling parts kits, and more. While the deliberate movements of the robot are consistent, its speed is less than that of its human counterparts.

The Post Office currently uses machines to sort, process, and cancel mail. Human employees move mail throughout a facility and load it onto machines that process it. With future advances in robotics, perhaps even a Baxter descendant, it might not be an unfathomable scenario where robots replace most functions of mail processing in the not too distant future.

Do you think robots could replace most human employees in a production environment within the next few decades?

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  May 1, 2014

    Yes, I can totally see where robots could be utilized in PO processing. And yes, even replacing some human employees. However you cannot replace all human employees.

  2. Anonymous

     /  May 1, 2014

    we’ve got a few supervisors that are robot like .

  3. Jonn

     /  May 2, 2014

    I don’t like the thought of robots replacing humans, but I think it’s where all production type environments will go in the coming decades. Robots are cheaper and can work 24/7 except for maintenance windows. People can only work so long and hard before they have to take a break. I just wonder where kids born today are going to work. I guess that’s where education is critical for them. Only those with it will do well in specialized skill positions and those without will see their jobs taken over by robots. Stay in school kids. You’re going to need it.

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