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A Look Inside Amazon’s Latest Generation Fulfillment Center


Robots Outnumber Humans 10 to 1

Oct. 19, 2021
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Joseph N. DiStefano of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday offered a look inside what sounds like Amazon’s latest FC design, reporting on a newly opened facility in Stanton, Delaware.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

While there is still some hiring to do, overall there will be less workers at this new FC than Amazon employs at fulfillment centers one-quarter of its size.

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Constructed at a cost of some $250 million, the FC is an incredible 3.7 million square feet, about the size of 17 football fields, and is five stories high. The facility was built on the site of a former General Motors factory.

In 2012, Amazon acquired distribution robot maker Kiva Systems for some $750 million dollars. Kiva was key to ushering the whole “goods to person” order picking concept, in its case delivering via mobile robot multi-compartment storage pods, from which stationary pickers use light display prompts or sometimes bar code scanning to select items from the pods and place them into shipping cartons.

The general belief is Amazon acquired Kiva to lock up its robot production and deployment capabilities for its own massive needs.

And the new FC has lots of these robots – lots and lots of them. In fact, the story says robots out number human workers 10 to 1 at the facility, with 10,000 robots versus 1000 people.

There are still at least some humans running around the FC.

Workers for now are still unloading inbound trucks, placing items into the storage pods, which are taken away by robot to what is usually in this type of Amazon FC a huge storage area, from which robots pick up a pod and take it to a picker, and from there on to another picker and eventually back to the storage area or to receiving for restocking.

The story describes pickers “waving electronics devices to verify the orders” – it can probably be assumed this means bar code scanners – and that humans are involved in packing the orders and placing them on conveyors that transport them to shipping.

“Amazon is still hiring, not just because so many workers don’t last a year, but also because its service is so popular that it keeps building more centers, adding people to run them, doing things robots still can’t,” the article says before adding “For now.”

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The story notes that while there is still some hiring to do, overall there will be fewer workers at this new FC than Amazon employs at some fulfillment centers one-quarter of its size – such is the impact of the robots.


Amazon sure likes the Philadelphia area. The article notes that Amazon now has more than 57 logistics facilities of all sort (FCs, sortation centers, etc.) up and running or underway across the region.

“This is just the beginning. You will see large centers like this throughout the country,” with other supersized facilities already rising in California, New York, Virginia, and Arkansas, Subodha Kumar, a professor at Temple University’s business school and an expert on supply chains and information systems, told the Inquirer.

You can read the full story here.

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