Haste makes waste? The shadow behind Amazon Logistics

In the winter of 2010, a blizzard in the UK brought Royal Mail’s courier service to a standstill, forcing a flood of Christmas Day gifts to be delayed. Aware of the postal crisis, Amazon executives across the ocean decided not to cling to other logistics companies and instead build Amazon’s own logistics delivery network, which was faster, cheaper and cheaper than the logistics Amazon had previously partnered with, UPS Parcel Service. More technical, even if the latter is a hundred years old.

In the six years since 2013, Amazon has built a large, efficient and fast logistics system across the United States from scratch. But like the two sides of the mirror, the other side of rapid expansion is “not fast”.

On December 23rd ProPublica, a non-profit media organization that investigates abuse slate, published an article saying it had learned from the latest documents and insiders that Amazon’s logistics system put slower and cost control first, while ignoring security concerns. This may be a dangerous seed that was buried when Amazon built its own logistics system.

“Hidden” six years of accidents

Six months after the logistics network was established, Amazon had its first fatal accident.

On September 18, 2013, a van carrying an Amazon package killed a passer-by on a bicycle in a San Francisco suburb. The truck was not Amazon’s official delivery vehicle, but belonged to transportcontractor OnTrac. In the early days, Amazon outsourced transportation to low-cost contractors in order to quickly tap into its logistics network and control costs, so that it took the warehouse to door-to-door controls.

Coincidentally, this unfortunate passer-by was Joy Covery, Amazon’s first chief financial officer. She joined Amazon in 1996 and convinced Wall Street to believe the company’s vision at a time when the company was losing money. After leading Amazon to a successful launch, Covery left in 2000 to become a professional investor and philanthropist. It took six years for the incident to be first reported by ProPublica.

Haste makes waste? The shadow behind Amazon Logistics

Joy Covey Profiles

But Amazon denies this, “ProPublica and BuzzFeed reports are false, and nothing is more important to us than security.” Amazon also provided a set of data: last year, the company provided more than 1 million hours of security training to employees and logistics contractors and implemented a total of $55 million in “security improvement programs.” But Amazon didn’t say how many people were involved in the training, and the $55 million was less than two-thousandths of the company’s $27.7 billion in logistics last year.

Amazon would not say how many traffic accidents have occurred in the six years since the logistics network was built. The company says the fatal crash rate in Amazon’s logistics this year is lower than in the U.S., but the latter’s statistics range from family cars to 18-wheeled trucks, covering all U.S. vehicles, and the rate of car crashes in family cars is much higher than truck crashes.

“This (lethal) traffic accident has happened and will happen again, but these are the exceptions,” Amazon said. Our ultimate goal is to achieve zero accidents. ”

But since this year, Amazon delivery drivers have had more than 60 serious crashes, 13 of them dead. According to internal documents seen by ProPublica, Amazon has an internal compensation agreement for companies dealing with the deaths of people killed in car accidents. Amazon executives have repeatedly delayed and even canceled safety training because they fear it will affect driverspeed, according to current and former employees, delivery drivers and contractors.

“How fast and good to save”

Amazon’s corporate culture has been questioned. Of the five tech giants of FAAAM (Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft), Amazon is the most “wolf”. Founders pursue a “customer first”, “every day is the first day”, a disruptive culture. As the world’s largest e-commerce company and the world’s fourth-largest technology giant by market capitalisation, Amazon has been aggressively using speed and efficiency to tackle one challenge after another.

In the early days of logistics, Amazon executives had discussed how to implement safety measures, with one suggesting: “Give drivers longer breaks and reduce the number of packages per shipment.” “However, the proposal was rejected by other executives because, on the other, the cost of delivering each package would increase by 4 cents.”

By the end of 2016, Amazon’s u.S.-wide logistics network was in shape, seemingly moving closer to the original goal of “faster, cheaper and more technical.”

But the seeds of danger that were originally planted have begun to “take root”. Amazon clashed with contractors during the Black Friday, Christmas and New Year’s shopping season. Amazon’ shipments to contractors are too high and it expects drivers to deliver packages quickly, and Amazon is demanding that drivers be more, faster, better, and more cash-struck, in response to the resignation.

Amazon shipped more than 1 billion packages during the six-week shopping season in 2018, more than double the amount shipped in 2017. In just a few weeks, Amazon hired 3,949 drivers, many of them directly after being hired, according to internal data. According to company documents and interviews, Amazon quickly hired a driver with night blindness and a driver who admitted to “using marijuana for medical purposes” in order to get new drivers on the job.

To improve delivery efficiency, Amazon asked contractors to use an app called Rabbit to scan packages and navigate distribution routes. Unfortunately, the algorithm is not so perfect, in the face of reality often “turn over”, such as not in the planning line to allow the driver to rest time, navigation direction is often wrong.

An audit team assessed the contractors and found that some contractors did not pay the driver enough insurance or paid the driver the statutory overtime pay. After the audit team reported the situation to Amazon, Amazon ignored the issue and fired the person in charge, and the team disbanded, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon responded, however, “because of problems with the audit process at the time, the team was integrated into other organizations.” The new leadership improved the efficiency and scope of the audit. ”

Change soup, don’t change medicine.

After the opening period, Amazon’s logistics network has basically taken shape, and security issues have been put on the table.

In early 2018, Amazon announced that it would transfer most of its distribution tasks to smaller contractors, who would only need to take charge of 20 to 40 routes compared to larger contractors, which would reduce freight risk by diverting contractors’ freight and routes.

In July, Amazon also released Amazon Road Safety Logistics Opportunities, which highlights Amazon’s safety priorities, zero-tolerance policy for serious accidents, regular professional overhauls of vehicles, training of delivery station managers on employee safety awareness, and more.

By the end of the year, in preparation for the Black Friday to New Year holiday shopping season, Amazon executives had put forward a proposal to improve the security of Amazon’s distribution network, including a five-day driving safety course for drivers, who would also need to be evaluated by a professional organization after the course.

But the proposal was not put into practice. Amazon rejected the proposal internally, with internal documents showing that senior managers at Amazon’s logistics division said Amazon did not conduct security training because it would block its pursuit of how quickly and saves. And in the middle of the year said to rectify the delivery station, in the shopping season is also a mess, serious shortage of manpower, delivery truck into the station route congestion, the new driver lack of safety training, but had to deal with many extreme road conditions in winter …

Haste makes waste? The shadow behind Amazon Logistics

Amazon executives respond to security questions on Twitter

Last month, NBC reported that the “driver certification badge” in Amazon’s articles of association was also in vain. People familiar with the situation, current employees and former employees said in interviews that drivers who do not pass a background check can also use badges to drive the van. Amazon executives have even acquiesced to the company’s request for delivery.

If a driver is investigated for a violation, the contractor may only get a warning, but if the delivery does not meet the requirements, the contractor could face a significant fine or even terminate the contract.

Not only are drivers safe and unable to be guaranteed throughout the logistics process, but amazon’s warehouses have twice as many serious injuries as the u.S. industry, according to the nonprofit news agency Reveal and The Atlantic.

On the other hand, the cost of labor and unavoidable human accidents have led Amazon to explore the “unmanned” and “automation” of logistics.

According to Wired’s june report, Amazon’s own logistics system, which includes 40 aircraft and 30,000 trucks, has more than 200,000 robots in the logistics warehousing process for carrying shelves, loading pallets and sorting packages. Unmanned Delivery Vehicle Scout is part of ground logistics in Amazon’s unmanned delivery program. In addition to ground logistics, Amazon has been exploring drone delivery technologies, such as Amazon’s own Prime Air drone.

Haste makes waste? The shadow behind Amazon Logistics

Automatic Delivery Drone Prime Air Prime Air Demo Video Screenshot

But the bright undeliverable technology doesn’t mean that Amazon has pulled the dangerous seed out of it, and for now, at least, it has more than a quarter of a million logistics employees and thousands of contractors in the U.S. who have outsourced partnerships to address their hidden problems and protect their interests.

Amazon, which is user-oriented, stepped up its investment in the logistics system in April, reducing Prime membership delivery times to “everyday.”

This is obviously good news for users. But the contractor’s drivers see a completely different side.

“You don’t have lunch break. There was no time to go to the toilet, and some people urinated on bottles in the car. In order to drive fast, you have to run a red light in the community. This job usually doesn’t let humans do it. “

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