Bottom line: Amazon isn't planning to lay off employees whose jobs will be replaced by machines but rather, let its headcount drop through attrition. Packing orders is a role with a high turnover rate. As new machines come online, Amazon simply won't rehire workers for this position and will instead consider them for other jobs.

Amazon is automating a task at its warehouses that you may be surprised to learn is still held by humans – packing customer orders.

Sources familiar with the matter tell Reuters that Amazon in recent years has started installing automated order-packing machines at some of its warehouses. The machine, referred to as the CartonWrap, scans goods as they come down a conveyor belt and “envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item.”

CartonWrap can pack up to 700 boxes per hour which is four to five times the rate of a human packer. The machines, at $1 million each plus operating expenses, require one person to load custom orders, another employee to stock cardboard and glue and a third to fix occasional jams.

A spokesperson for Amazon said they are piloting the new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across their network. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created,” the spokesperson added.

Amazon recently committed to replacing its two-day Prime shipping perk with one-day service. Being able to package orders at a much faster rate could help realize that goal while freeing up human workers for other roles within the company.

Lead image courtesy Jonathan Weiss via Shutterstock