Today I had the interesting experience of visiting Amazon’s Rugeley warehouse.
As expected it was an eye-opener. Firstly, I was astonished by the sheer size of the warehouse, the footprint of 10 full size football pitches, and not just on a single level.
They’ve recently added mezzanine floors to increase capacity and having had a walk around it, I estimate it would probably take close to 10 minutes to get from one end of the warehouse to the other – a challenge in itself.
One of my first questions during my visit was: “where are all the people?” Had they shut down for the day? The warehouse felt deserted but I was assured that a full shift of employees were hidden away between the hundreds of racks busily gathering products for the day’s orders.
In the warehouse safety is a top priority (the sign in reception states that it’s been 60 days since the last reportable incident).
Amazon’s care of their employees is evident as we were instructed to walk between the blue lines – they’re the areas set out for pedestrians. Motorised vehicles have different lanes within the warehouse and something I’ve never seen before… they even have a zebra crossing painted on the floor for when pedestrian traffic crosses the motorised lanes!
Having had a quick look around the multiple levels of product storage (Generally heavy, bulky fast moving items on the ground floor with lighter slower moving lines on the mezzanines), we moved to the packaging area.
The first thing that happens when the picking trolleys arrive is that products are re-picked into orders. This takes account the size of the warehouse – if an order is for multiple items several different pickers may have collected products for the one order and this is when they’re collated.
Next they go to the actual packers who will have the correct size packaging predetermined. They’ll pack the order but at this stage the only label attached is a bar code. Amazon maintain customer anonymity even from their own staff.
Once packed, orders go on to a conveyor and this is where the magic happens. The bar codes are scanned and matched up to a courier label. Labels are attached by automated machines along with a final weight check (if there’s a weight mismatch the parcel goes back for a final check before labelling.)
After labelling the packages go to an auto pre-sort conveyor and this is where suddenly the size and scale of the warehouse comes into sharp focus.
Thousands of parcels poured off the conveyor like a never ending waterfall. It was impossible to count the quantity, perhaps somewhere around 20 parcels per second but I may have underestimated.
What seeing the never ending (it’s a 24 hour/day operation) flow of parcels does do is make you realise just how many people there must be running around the warehouse picking orders plus those doing the actual packaging. This is ultra impressive considering that it’s not even Amazon’s peak season – in the run up to Christmas they’ll be even busier.
It’s hard to describe the scale of an Amazon warehouse but luckily I don’t have to – you can go and visit one yourself. If you’re going to be in the Rugeley area taking in a tour of the Amazon warehouse is definitely interesting and not to be missed.