A rare look behind the scenes at Amazon: Here's how it all works
VANCOUVER -- We knew Amazon's Delta facility would be big, but this was enormous.
For the first time since the site opened, one of the world’s most valuable companies showed media what goes on behind the doors at Amazon YVR4.
Besides its massive size, 425,000 square feet, the fulfillment centre surprised with the sheer volume of product on-hand, ready to be purchased and shipped-out.
Endless rows that look like long highways are buzzing with activity and filled with 6.5 million items, including just about anything you can imagine. We saw pillows, laundry detergent, humidifier filters, Downton Abbey puzzles, sports equipment and protein powder.
The moment an item lands on one of these shelves, it’s made available online.
Once purchased, it’s put into a yellow container, onto a myriad of belts and slides, boxed, labeled, and put into a truck for delivery. This is how Amazon can offer same-day delivery on thousands of items.
When new stock arrives at the centre, it’s stored wherever it can fit.
“It’s economical for us to put stuff in a random fashion versus organizing it,” said Sumegha Kumar, director of Amazon Canada fulfillment centres. “Our system flags each entry from a physical and virtual match, so we do know where every unit is in the building."
The already-bustling facility got even busier when the pandemic began to spread. Now, one million packages are shipped from here every week.
“It got a lot busier because, you know, people panic and they start panic-buying,” said Amazon IT support engineer Simran Dhatt.
To meet demand, 2,000 new employees have been hired since March in Metro Vancouver alone.
“We are shipping volumes that is almost equivalent to our holiday season,” said Kumar.
Throughout the tour, guides were careful to show reporters all of the COVID-19 safety precautions now in place.
“Our employee health and safety is our number one priority,” Kumar said.
In May, a Canadian Amazon vice president resigned when employees were fired for, he says, raising concerns about pandemic safety at the workplace.
On Thursday, reporters saw high-tech equipment taking employee temperatures when they show-up for work. Large, spaced-out break rooms, which the company says have quadrupled in size to promote distancing.
Every employee, except one, was wearing a mask. And he was quickly told to cover-up.