Bob Zorn’s coworkers were waiting for him when he started his shift at Giant Eagle’s warehouse in Pittsburgh.
The two blue, autonomous pallet jacks sat idle near the receiving bays. Their stately calm was out of place in the chaos — organized chaos they call it — of the warehouse in Fairywood.
Even at shift change, workers on pallet jacks and fork lifts honk as they whiz by. But the robots — they don’t have names, just numbers, one and two — don’t move. Not until Zorn tells them too.
Zorn, an 18-year veteran of the warehouse, just learned how to work with the robots. He was a little nervous and referred to notes written on a worn piece of paper.
He turned them on and directed one to slide its jack under a pallet of canned fruit. Zorn punched in the robot’s starting location on a keypad. He told it where to take the fruit and where to return after it had dropped it off.
Then Zorn, 54, of Crafton Heights hit a big green button, stepped back, and watched the robot take off.
“If this machine can work with our workers here, it can work anywhere,” said Joe Hurley, senior vice president of supply chain for Giant Eagle.
If robots are coming for our jobs, they haven’t yet at Giant Eagle’s warehouse.