Open Evidence field visits at Amazon and Poste Italiane for the case studies on the impacts of digitalization and algorithms on work organisation in the logistics sector

Open Evidence is currently carrying out a study for the Joint Research Centre (JRC) which aims at investigating the impact of algorithmic management on work organisation, job quality and industrial relations in the logistics and healthcare sectors in Italy and France. As part of the study, our team needs to visit two different establishments per sector (logistics and healthcare) and country (Italy and France). A key implicit hypothesis of this project is that, as economic organisations use more and more connected digital technologies to organize work processes, they tend to implement algorithmic management and, thus, platformise more and more too. The project is part of a larger programme of work, carried out in collaboration between the JRC and the International Labour Office, to study some key developments for the Future of Work at a global scale, with a focus in the comparison between European and non-European countries. The main findings will be summarized in four reports, one for each country-sector combination, and published by the JRC.

Within the project, on 26th and 27th of January, our team visited Amazon BGY1, located in Cividate al Piano in the province of Bergamo. Amazon BGY1 opened in 2021 and is one of the most cutting-edge fulfillment centres using the Amazon Robotics technology. During the field visit, the Open Evidence team had the chance to see first-hand the functioning of the several processes taking place in an establishment using the robotics technology. After the tour, the team interviewed the establishment’s employees, both managers and warehouse workers, with the goal of understanding the impacts of the Amazon Robotics technology on their work organization and job quality.

Following to that, on 8th of February, the research team visited the primary distribution centre of Cento, in the province of Ferrara. The centre has been selected since September 2022 as a pilot case for the application of an innovative algorithmic tool of dynamic routing which is used to optimize the planning of postmen’s itineraries for the delivery of mail and parcels. During the visit, the team had the opportunity to watch live the operations in the centre and interview managers and postmen to comprehend the advantages and repercussions of the recently introduced technology on their work processes and working conditions.
On both occasions the team also discussed about future opportunities and challenges related to the increasing use of digital tools and algorithmic management software in the sector.