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WASHINGTON (AP) — Aback the robots came to online banker Boxed, alarming came, too: The accustomed abhorrence that the machines would booty over, abrogation a aisle of unemployed bodies in their wake.

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“I had a lot of bodies allurement me, ‘What is activity to appear to us?’” says Veronica Mena, a trainer for the e-commerce startup, abandoning the all-overs that bouncing through her co-workers afterwards aggregation admiral appear affairs to accessible an automatic barn in adjacent Union, New Jersey.

Yet their fears didn’t appear to pass.

When the new barn opened this spring, workers begin that their jobs were beneath physically ambitious than at the older, chiral barn in Edison, New Jersey. Instead of walking bags of accomplish a day loading items assimilate carts, advisers could angle at stations as agent belts brought the appurtenances to them.

And rather than acid jobs, the aggregation added a third about-face to accumulate up with rapidly growing demand.

What happened at Boxed — and has occurred abroad — suggests that boundless fears about automation and job accident are generally misplaced. Automation has absolutely helped actualize jobs in e-commerce, rather than annihilate them, and stands to actualize added in the years ahead. By accelerating commitment times, robotics and software accept fabricated online arcade an added applicable addition to bricks-and-mortar stores, and sales accept ballooned at online retailers.

The billow in e-commerce has appropriate the accelerated build-out of a all-inclusive arrangement of warehouses and commitment systems that accommodate both robots and animal workers. The robots didn’t booty jobs from people, because abounding of the jobs didn’t abide before.

“We’re not attractive to do the aforementioned assignment with bisected the people,” said Rick Zumpano, carnality admiral for administration at Boxed. “Since we’re growing, we charge everyone.”

Newer automatic technologies do approach as a blackmail to some e-commerce jobs. Startup robotics companies are developing apprentice arm prototypes, for example, that can aces appurtenances from shelves. Those accessories may alter some workers over the abutting decade.

But the access of e-commerce and the affluence of automation are arch e-commerce companies to body added warehouses. So alike if anniversary barn employs beneath workers, the admeasurement of new warehouses is projected to accomplish hiring beyond the industry.

In the meantime, jobs accept been absent at storefront retailers, which accept suffered beneath the e-commerce onslaught. Venerable chains such as Toys “R” Us, RadioShack, and Payless Shoesource accept all filed for defalcation this year.

There are boundless fears that things will get alone worse for the nation’s 16 actor retail workers. Self-checkout kiosks and beginning food like Amazon’s Go , which has no cashiers, could apparently annihilate millions of retail jobs.

But worries about a “retail apocalypse” accept absent a added important trend: E-commerce absolutely leads to added jobs by advantageous bodies to do things we acclimated to do ourselves.

When bodies boutique online, tasks that already abounding their canicule — active to a store, analytic through aisles for a product, bringing it to a accountant and advantageous for it — are now done by barn advisers and barter drivers. Bodies absorb beneath time arcade than in the past, analysis shows.

Joe Song, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who has advised government data, has begin that alive women are spending beneath time arcade — about 25 hours beneath per year compared with a decade earlier. Song attributes the time accumulation mainly to e-commerce. Families added outsource arcade to e-commerce employees, aloof as abounding accept continued outsourced added domiciliary tasks to adolescent affliction workers or abode cleaners. In anniversary case, jobs are created.

That agency the bankruptcies and abundance closings in the retail area aren’t the complete picture. While jobs accept been absent in stores, abounding added accept been acquired from online shopping. Michael Mandel, an economist at the Progressive Policy Institute, calculates that the cardinal of e-commerce and warehousing jobs has leapt by 400,000 in the accomplished decade, calmly offsetting the accident of 140,000 brick-and-mortar retail jobs.

Amazon accounts for abundant of the added employment. Yet it’s additionally at the beat of automation. Since 2014, Amazon has deployed 100,000 robots in 25 warehouses worldwide. At the aforementioned time, it’s about tripled its alternate workforce, from almost 45,000 to about 125,000.

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Its use of robotics has baldheaded the operating costs for a barn by about 20 percent, according to a address by Deutsche Bank. Such savings, in turn, accept bargain the amount for Amazon to accessible new accessories — and appoint added workers.

Mandel credibility out that it’s a lot like what happened added than a 100 years ago, aback Henry Ford’s accession of accumulation curve — an aboriginal anatomy of automation — helped abate the amount of cars, which added appeal so abundant that Ford bare added workers.

Robots accept displaced abounding accomplishment workers in the accomplished two to three decades, enabling factories to aftermath added with beneath employees.

Yet e-commerce and warehousing are growing far faster than accomplishment is — a acute aberration that lessens the appulse of automation. E-commerce sales are surging almost bristles times as fast as storefront retail sales, according to bazaar analysis close Forrester. By 2022, they’re accepted to anniversary for 17 percent of all retail sales, up from 13 percent this year.

From a scattering of administration centers in 2000, Amazon now has added than 240 warehouses and abate commitment facilities, according to MWPVL, a consulting firm. Those warehouses accept created tens of bags of jobs and added accomplishment in some communities, which abounding bounded administration alarm “the Amazon effect.”

But Amazon is not the alone aggregation that has accomplished advance due to e-commerce.

Walmart, the world’s bigger retailer, afresh opened its sixth e-commerce campus abreast Orlando, Florida. Like the others, it includes a actor aboveboard bottom warehouse.

Walmart is additionally accretion its online grocery auto account to 2,000 stores, bifold the 1,000 area it is now available. It allows Walmart’s barter to adjustment advantage online, but requires added workers, not fewer. Ravi Jariwala, a spokesman, says Walmart has created a new job allocation — “personal shopper” — to do what barter already did themselves: Aces and amalgamation orders.

And XPO Logistics, which ships mostly accessories and added abundant goods, has assassin 3,000 barn workers in the accomplished year to accumulate up with growing e-commerce, bringing its absolute to 26,000. It’s abacus a actor aboveboard anxiety of barn about every four to six weeks, says Ashfaque Chowdhury, admiral of XPO’s accumulation alternation in the Americas and Asia.

Chowdhury says items that abounding bodies wouldn’t accept acquainted adequate affairs on the internet not continued ago — from refrigerators to treadmills to appliance — are acceptable accepted online purchases. And the aggregation is additionally planning to accessible a actor aboveboard bottom barn in the Midwest alone to handle returns.

All these trends accept been helped by automation’s adeptness to authority bottomward costs, such as Walmart’s use of drones to advice clue its barn inventory.

Still, a bout of Boxed’s aflame new barn in Union makes it accessible to see why bodies anguish that automation costs jobs. Everywhere you attending you see machines and rows of neatly organized pallets of goods.

But not so abounding workers. Through the 140,000-square-foot building, two afar of agent belts agilely barrel bogus bins absolute customers’ orders. One apparatus stamps commitment labels on boxes. Spread agilely alternating the agent belts, almost three dozen workers accomplish on the floor.

Among the aboriginal stops on the agent is a four-story-high automatic accoutrement accepted as “Perfect Pick.” It enables one agent bushing orders to accept from 700 items. An automatic container, the iBOT, zips up and bottomward and aback and alternating amid the Perfect Pick’s shelves, area articles are stored.

The iBOT retrieves babyish items — bloom and adorableness articles and bite foods — and brings them to the employee, who places them in bins.

At Amazon’s abundant beyond barn in Baltimore, there are added workers, but additionally a lot added robots. They lift shelves of appurtenances and cycle them to the company’s pickers, who baddest items that barter accept ordered afore the robots acknowledgment the shelves to storage.

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Even so, there are still jobs at both warehouses for bodies to do. At Boxed, the bins coast from the Perfect Aces to added employees, who baddest added items to complete an order. A abstracted group, the packers, puts aggregate in pastel-hued boxes for shipment. Fitting assorted items of altered shapes and textures into a box is article bodies still do abundant bigger than robots.

Barbara Ward, 56, is a packer at Boxed, and like all her colleagues, she writes a acknowledgment agenda for anniversary adjustment she packages. It’s allotment of Boxed’s accomplishment to bottle some aspects of the accepted arcade experience. Aback a chump has ordered diapers, a packer ability address a adulatory note.

At Amazon’s Baltimore warehouse, advisers alleged “stowers” are bare to banal the shelves that are agitated by robots. And that requires animal judgment: Software suggests to workers area anniversary account should be placed. But it’s an employee’s albatross to accomplish abiding the shelves, which are alpine and narrow, abide balanced.

There are additionally “problem solvers” who position themselves abreast a calibration on a agent belt that weighs anniversary amalgamation as it whizzes by. If the weight isn’t constant with what’s declared to be in the box, the amalgamation is set abreast for a botheration solver, who opens the box to see whether the adjustment was abounding correctly.

The barn covers the agnate of 17 football fields and was opened in 2015, one of the aboriginal to be advised with robots in mind. Still, it employs 5,000 people.

Amazon and Boxed say their automatic warehouses absolutely apply added workers than their non-automated warehouses do, because they handle far added volume.

And abounding advisers say all the technology and accouterment has fabricated their jobs better.

Mena, 34, awfully prefers Boxed’s new ability to the chiral warehouses area she ahead worked. At one warehouse, endemic by a medical accessories manufacturer, Mena says she would airing 15,000 accomplish a day to ample orders, according to her Fitbit. That’s about 7.5 miles.

“There’s beneath appropriation to do,” she adds, now that appurtenances are confused by agent belt rather than carts. “There are a lot of little things that accomplish the job better.”

And with Boxed growing rapidly, she was answer to trainer beneath than a year afterwards starting as a acting agent acrimonious orders.

Ward, meanwhile, says she expects to be able to assignment best at Boxed because her job is beneath physically demanding, acknowledgment to automation.

Jobs are growing off the barn floor, as well. The access of online business is additionally architecture appeal for higher-paying jobs in software and robotics. About 14 percent of software job listings are now acquaint by retailers, according to abstracts analyzed by Glassdoor, the job application website. That allotment has angled from 2012, says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s arch economist.

And the software jobs are not as concentrated in places like Silicon Valley. Dallas, for example, has accomplished a billow in software jobs, partly because of greater hiring by Home Depot.

“That’s a huge change,” Chamberlain said. “Software-related jobs are a bellwether of automation.”

Amazon’s career website lists about 5,000 accessible software jobs and 250 in apparatus learning, a blazon of bogus intelligence. Walmart is announcement 475 software and technology jobs, including abstracts analysts, programmers, and software engineers.

These aren’t association who aloof advance websites.

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When a chump shops on Boxed’s website, software calculates what admeasurement box will be bare and how abundant abandoned amplitude it will contain, Zumpano said. Aloof afore checkout, the website will acclaim articles that would ample the box’s abandoned space, yet not so abounding that the adjustment would crave addition box.

Automation and robotics will alone get added adult in the future, which will abuse some jobs.

Amazon runs an anniversary “picking” challenge in which mostly startup firms and universities attempt to see which team’s apprentice can best calmly aces items from a shelf and abode them in a box.

“What’s activity to appear abutting is automatic arms, accumulated with eyes technology and assimilation technology,” says Marc Wulfraat, admiral of MWVPL, a consulting firm. “You can be abuse abiding that Amazon will booty the aboriginal beat at it.”

But it could booty several years for such robots to be put into boundless use. For now, they assignment mostly with items in boxes and added adamant shapes, Wulfraat says. They can’t yet handle bulkier items such as basketballs or softer items like clothes.

“Robotic duke technology is still appealing far off,” Boxed’s CEO, Chieh Huang, says. The aggregation afresh installed robots in its three added chiral warehouses to carriage appurtenances to workers, as an addition to agent belts. They didn’t lay off any employees.

And Mandel argues that if added automation, such as automatic pickers, lowers costs further, it could actualize new markets for articles and services, such as custom-built goods.

Wulfraat predicts that hundreds of abate warehouses will be congenital in ample cities to abbreviate commitment times to as low as an hour, decidedly for groceries. Amazon already has 53 such facilities, and its competitors will be affected to chase suit.

“You’re activity to charge administration accessories in the backyard of every city,” Wulfraat says. Those accessories will be abate and cheaper and won’t be account absolutely automating.

Automation is additionally added acceptable in the advancing years to accomplish up for activity shortages rather than alter workers, Wulfraat says. Companies such as Target and Walmart accept had to advertise boundless pay increases in the accomplished two years to allure and accumulate employees, a assurance of a tighter job market.

Many barn operators he works with ahead the botheration will alone abound worse as babyish boomers age and added retire, Wulfraat says. Any barn workers displaced by automation will calmly acquisition jobs elsewhere.

“I don’t see hundreds of bags of workers unemployed and on the street,” he said.

___

Contact Christopher Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber

Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This actual may not be published, broadcast, accounting or redistributed.

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