5,000 employees, 10,000 robots and 2.5 million square feet: Life at Amazon in Akron – Akron Beacon Journal

5,000 employees, 10,000 robots and 2.5 million square feet: Life at Amazon in Akron – Akron Beacon Journal

The Akron Amazon Fulfillment Center on the site of the former Rolling Acres Mall now employs more than 5,000 workers — more than three times the initial hiring goal less than two years ago.
General Manager Mike Boorstein, who runs the massive operation, said the center is constantly hiring as workers move on and the center’s needs increase.
In September 2020, as the center was under construction, the company put the call out for 1,500 employees.
‘We spent the year loading up’:Amazon Fulfillment Center in Akron ready for holiday crush
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said at the time the Amazon location, with its 1,500 employees, would revitalize the Romig Road area.
“Anytime you can add 1,500 jobs at a pretty decent wage, with the benefits and some of the other things they are offering, that’s always a win,” the mayor said.
Turns out, 1,500 workers was just enough to grease the wheels.
What’s inside the four-story site in Kenmore located about a mile northeast of the Barberton border?
Stuff, for sure — 2.5 million square feet of stuff.
How it started:Amazon announces opening of fulfillment center on former Rolling Acres site in Akron
Stuff arriving on dozens of truckloads a day and stuff processed, stored and shipped out at the center, which opened in November 2020.
Now, 16 months after it opened, the center can move 500,000 items a day during peak season, Boorstein said.
For Akron to move its mountains of products and contribute its share to Amazon’s $469.8 billion revenue machine, the Seattle e-retailer has developed a non-traditional warehousing and distribution system in which every item is constantly tracked from the time it arrives to the time it is sent on its journey to a purchaser.
“We optimize what workers and robots do,” Boorstein said Wednesday on a tour of the facility. “We’re able to move a huge amount of items in a small amount of time.”
The Akron location processes only non-perishable items, although a facility in Twinsburg stores refrigerated products. A Columbus center is planned that will house potentially hazardous material like oil products and pepper spray, said Eleni Byers, assistant general manager for the sprawling complex.
Another Amazon location in Akron area? Montrose’s mysterious new grocery closely resembles Amazon Fresh storefronts
The center’s first floor, with nearly 100 docks for unloading trailers, serves as the delivery and receiving area.
When items arrive, they are processed and sent up a conveyor belt to one of the three upper floors.
“The moment an associate scans an item [and] places it in a bin, it’s for sale on Amazon.com,” Boorstein said.
On the three upper floors, items are stowed in the digitally organized warehouse.
Sandra Asbury, a Coventry Township resident, works at a station stowing items, or placing them on storage towers that sit atop robotic pods. Items arrive on a conveyor belt and Asbury scans them and places them in a pocket of the tower.
Once completed, the robotic pod rolls off to sit where it will remain until an item from the tower is retrieved for a buyer.
The robotic pods read QR codes embedded on the warehouse floor that instruct them where to go and wait.
The system bears little resemblance to a traditional warehouse, where items are placed together on shelves for easy identification. But the software knows where each item is located from the time it arrives to the time it leaves.
“The decision on where it’s going is all software,” Boorstein said.
Before working at the center, Asbury said she imagined items being grouped together in the vast warehouse. Shoes with shoes, toys with toys and so forth.
But it’s not like that at all.
“Items can be scattered anywhere,” she said.
Once the items are scanned and placed in the storage units, the robotic pods are programmed to move them to the most strategic locations. Items that don’t move as fast with consumers, for instance, make way for more popular products.
David Stewart of Canton processes items that have been sold at what the company calls a pick station. The pods bring storage towers to him and software identifies products that have been purchased and in which pocket of the tower it’s located.
“It knows exactly where to go all of the time,” said Troy Box, a senior operations manager.
Stewart, a process assistant team leader, scans those products, places them in a plastic storage bin for the next step in the operation.
The entire process is designed to protect a consumer’s identity, Boorstein said.
“It’s completely anonymous,” Stewart said.
The thousands of items he sees in his picking job has its perks, Stewart said.
“It’s really good for getting gift ideas,” he said.
The plastic bins that Stewart and others pick are sent to packing stations, where they are placed in the boxes and bags familiar to Amazon customers.
Hundreds of picking and packing stations line the work area of the center.
“We have almost 400 stations in the building,” Boorstein said.
As the nation’s second largest employer with more than 1 million people drawing a paycheck and benefits, Amazon has been criticized in recent years for its working conditions and opposition to unionization.
But the company disputes allegations it’s not a good place to work.
Jessica Pawl, field communications manager for Amazon’s regional facilities, said the company has invested heavily in making itself an even more attractive place to carve out a career.
At the Akron center, there’s a small company store where workers can purchase items with credits they earn on the job.
Soundproofed units that look a bit like phone booths with seats offer workers a chance to sit down and relax or have lunch near their work stations.
In a tight labor market, Amazon tries to make its facilities as inclusive as possible, Boorstein said.
“Our goal is to be able to employ everybody here,” he said.
Pawl said the company pays about twice minimum wage and offers college tuition benefits.
It also promotes from within.
Byers can attest to that. A Hudson native who graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Byers has darted up the management ladder and is now assistant general manager of the center.
She started at Amazon six years ago and worked her way up quickly.
“When you demonstrate [those] skills and abilities… you demonstrate you’re ready for the next level,” Boorstein said.
Byers said the company looks for individuals with a record of achievement, but doesn’t see long tenure as a necessary requirement for promotion.
“You progress through your performance,” Byer said.
Borstein, who worked in military logistics before coming on board to run the Akron site, said the company likes to promote from within.
“Most of our senior team is internally promoted,” Boorstein said.
The center is one of three of its size and type in the Akron-Cleveland region, Boorstein said. There are about 70 comparable centers in the U.S., but the company continues to modify and enhance technology and efficiency at its locations, he said.
“This [center] is one behind the latest generation,” he said.
In Cleveland, the company has rolled out a same-day delivery system for many of the most popular items sold on Amazon, Pawl said. It’s a service with a 5-hour delivery tarthe company intends to apply to other areas.
The Akron site doesn’t deliver to your door, Boorstein said.
It sends packages to other sites, determined by the computer, where those deliveries are made. That could mean your stuff arrives in an Amazon delivery truck or by the U.S. Postal Service. But if it says AKC-1 on the label, you’ll know it was processed at the Romig Road location.
Pawl said recent relaxation of COVID-19 rules led to the dropping of a mask requirement in the Akron center and a desire to publicize what the location does.
“We want the community to know what’s happening inside this mammoth facility,” she said.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at aashworth@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.

source


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.