UPDATED 12:51 EDT / NOVEMBER 22 2019

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Amazon debuts the Dash Smart Shelf to gain a bigger presence in office supplies

After getting its Echo smart speakers into tens of millions of homes, Amazon.com Inc. is now hoping to establish a bigger presence in the workplace. 

The company on Thursday pulled back the curtains on the Dash Smart Shelf, an internet-connected scale for businesses that automatically reorders office supplies from Amazon when they’re about to run out. Users can place common items such as printer paper, pens and notepads atop the device. When the Dash Smart Shelf senses that the weight drops below a certain level, it will purchase a fresh batch of whatever office supplies it’s holding.

There’s an alternate setting that companies can select to have the scale notify the office manager instead of placing orders on its own. To prevent accidental purchases, Amazon has designed the onboard software to detect if supplies are temporarily removed by a worker.

The Dash Smart Shelf comes in three sizes ranging in size from seven inches by seven inches to 18 inches by 13 inches. All the versions are one-inch tall and can be powered either via a wall plug or four AAA batteries.

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Amazon has built a partner ecosystem of sorts around the device. Companies that use Dash Smart Shelves will get an up to 15% discount on office supplies from brands such as 3M Inc. and pen maker BIC Corp. Amazon plans to ship the device to a few early pilot customers next month, with general availability expected for 2020. 

The Dash Smart Shelf’s ability to order supplies automatically before they run out plays into Amazon’s strategic goal of reducing wait times for users of its e-commerce marketplace. That has been a particularly big focus for the company in the consumer market. Amazon is investing nearly $10 billion per quarter into its supply chain to cut Prime delivery times from two days to one, a change RBC Capital Markets LLC estimates will add as much as 15% to its revenues.

It’s possible that Dash Smart Shelf will one day become available in a home version. Amazon had tried to implement a similar concept in the consumer market once before with the Dash Button, which allowed users to order items with a tap but discontinued the device. The fact that the Dash Smart Shelf orders goods automatically without requiring any extra action on the user’s part may allow a future consumer version to succeed where the Dash Button failed. 

Images: Amazon

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