Is Amazon Scout the Way of the Future?

Amazon Scout

Everybody loves a new toy. Whether you just purchased that convertible BMW you've always wanted, or you manage a fulfillment center and upgraded your TMS, everyone loves new gadgets, right?

Amazon, the global leader of order fulfillment and e-commerce merchandising believes so. In fact, they have recently expanded testing of a robotic delivery system known as Amazon Scout.

Although Scout may be confused for a rolling, automated beverage cooler, this six-wheeled delivery system is a multi-million-dollar last-mile delivery superstar, that has many in logistics wondering – is Amazon Scout the Way of the Future?

The expansion of the scout delivery system and it's testing in Southern California is worth discussing. Only time will tell whether this technology is a sign of things to come or just a clever marketing fad that will prove to be out of reach for the average person. 

In this blog post, we will explore Amazon’s latest delivery system. We will explain how Scout works, what services it is designed to offer, and whether robotic delivery systems like Scout are the wave of the future logistics leaders have been looking forward to for years. 


The 411 on Amazon’s Scout

Amazon introduced Scout in late 2018, as a delivery robot that would have the capacity to travel from fulfillment centers, dropped off by a ‘carrier’ and deliver products through a generally small area of high concentrations of customers.

The concept was to allow the robot to deliver to neighborhoods, city marketplaces, or downtown facilities or office buildings with multiple suites that have ordered products. 

They have been dubbed ‘adorabots’ – similar to Star Wars BB-8 or even Baby Yoda, where they garner attention based on their cute-like appearance. Initially, the testing was completed at Amazon HQ. But, back in January 2019, delivery robots were seen being tested in upscale residential communities in Irvine, California. 

The little blue robot (similar in color pattern to R2D2 in fact) are adorned with Amazon Prime branding and are six-wheeled, all-electric, self-operated delivery bots. It is Amazon's first ‘human trial’ testing of their much-anticipated robotic delivery systems, with the intent of gathering valuable information to determine if this platform is worth investing in further. 


The Droids Online Stores Have Been Looking For?

The Amazon Scout was developed in house, in their Seattle robotic facility. They deliver in multiple types of weather and can deliver packages about 20lbs in weight, or large enough to fit in their ‘container’. The question that must be asked is whether it’s economically viable or practical to develop the technology, manufacturer the units, with limited delivery capacity?

Most logistics and eCommerce companies focus a large portion of their time optimizing delivery options. From improving stops per hour to maximizing loads for delivery trucks, the current mentality is the opposite of Amazon’s Scout initiative. 

But, when you consider the savings robots have on human payroll, training, benefits, workers comp, and other financial expenses, the ends might justify the means. 


What are the Hurdles?

Rolling down the street is one thing – trying to navigate stairs, cracks in the road, different surface types, and potential customer questions is something else. For eCommerce businesses, that valuable last mile of logistics operation is the key to customer success and appreciation. A human delivery driver can navigate these hurdles, engage with the customers, and in some cases, use their delivery systems to re-route or instantly process a return. 

Currently, Amazon’s Scout has troubles with these basic delivery functions. The same can be said with drone delivery of products – in fact, all robotic delivery services face similar challenges. While the race to full automation is an objective of most large-scale fulfillment services, the technology is not ready to meet these hurdles and objectives head-on. 

However, development and research continue to help Amazon and other fulfillment providers utilize robotic delivery systems. Delivery bots have the potential of being the solution to streamline the package delivery process. With a few minor adjustments and continued development, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more e-commerce and logistics giants expand their robotic delivery system testing in 2020 and beyond.