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A Look Inside Amazon's New Jacksonville Fulfillment Center

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Will Dickey
/
The Florida Times-Union
Aaron Rogers works at his pick station as he loads a robotic pod with products at the Amazon Fulfillment Center on Pecan Park Road

The fast-paced operation on Jacksonville’s Northside uses 12 miles of conveyors and hundreds of robotic driving units while employing about 2,000 workers.

Before even the first box comes into view, the first sign of the size of the operation at Amazon’s fulfillment center on Jacksonville’s Northside is the droning noise.

It fills a building that’s big enough to hold 33 football fields, according to our Florida Times-Union news partner.

It’s the sound that accompanies the around-the-clock movement of million of items a week in a set-up where 2,000 people work in the midst of 12 miles of conveyor lines and chutes. They are joined by hundreds of robotic driving units that glide in precise patterns on the concrete floor, carrying around shelves that workers fill with items that ultimately will end up on Amazon customers’ doorsteps.

The fulfillment center, which kicked into operation in August, will have its official grand opening Friday, when local, state and federal officials tour the 855,000-square-foot building on Pecan Park Road in the Jacksonville International Airport area.

“The scale of what we do is always eye-opening,” Bernard Schmidt, general manager of the center, said Thursday as he walked through the building and explained the steps involved.

Jacksonville is home to two fulfillment centers. Another opened last year at Cecil Commerce Center on the Westside.

The two are spread out geographically to reach Amazon’s growing customer base, so there’s a good chance Amazon customers in Jacksonville will get their items from the fulfillment centers in Jacksonville. But depending on the inventory on hand at any given center, the item could come from any number of centers in different states.

“We might have a product here in our fulfillment center that if you live in Des Moines, Iowa, your fulfillment center in Des Moines does not have,” Schmidt said.

Once unloaded from trucks, items go through a four-step process known as stow, pick, pack and slam that’s a mix of the human touch and algorithm-driven technology.

In older Amazon centers, the process of stocking inventory is akin to shelving books in a library as Amazon workers hand-carry items to specific shelf spots. But in new centers like the one in Jacksonville, employees stand in one place and scan in items as robotic driving units arrive carrying the shelves to the employees. It’s fast-paced. The robots are able to turn 360 degrees, enabling them to cut hard corners as they carry shelves back and forth while constantly zipping past each other.

You can read a longer version of this story that includes more on the facility's robots and additional photographs on jacksonville.com.