VEDP toured the Amazon fulfillment center in Chesterfield, Va., this week, and we were pleased to see the facility was still buzzing with activity even after the holiday rush.
The Chesterfield fulfillment center began operations in the fall of 2012, after the company’s December 2011 announcement that it would invest $85 million to establish the location and create 1,000 jobs.
Today, the 1.2 million square foot facility has 1,500 employees that help distribute more than 14 million items in the building.
The facility is an impressive maze of shelves, work stations and conveyor belts whizzing yellow bins, called “totes,” containing any type of smaller consumer good throughout the building in a blur of efficiency. Amazon’s other facility in nearby Dinwiddie County ships larger consumer goods, like kayaks and TVs.
Our tour guide took us through the massive layout and explained how departments such as receiving, stowing, packing and shipping all work together. Like any massive organization, Amazon has its own nomenclature. “Stowers” scan goods in and store them in the “library” where they are later retrieved by “pickers” who put items for a customer’s order into the “totes.”
The Chesterfield facility has more than 2,500 scanners, 1,300 carts and 40,000 yellow totes.
Extreme efficiency is a requirement for success at Amazon. On 2013’s Cyber Monday, Amazon customers ordered more than 36.8 million items, which is a record-breaking 426 items per second.
The company operates under a continuous improvement mandate, and many suggestions come from employees themselves. Last year, 4,700 employees participated in 1,100 kaizens across North America to develop new processes and solutions to solve specific problems.
One reason Amazon has found success in Virginia is because its Chesterfield fulfillment center seamlessly blends Virginia’s skilled workforce with advanced technology and sophisticated algorithms to keep the operation humming at peak efficiency.
A second reason is Virginia’s premier logistics network. Amazon’s recognition as a powerhouse distributor was furthered when Coca Cola decided to bring back its Surge soda and sell it exclusively online through Amazon. Surge is the top-selling item at the Chesterfield facility.
Due to the strength of Virginia’s logistics network, more than 380 global logistics projects have been announced over the last 10 years with capital investment of more than $1.8 billion. The Commonwealth allows companies to transport products worldwide through its six interstate highways, nine commercial airports, 11 railroads, including two Class I lines, and the International Port of Virginia, one of the only East Coast locations in the U.S. able to handle post-Panamax vessels as first and last port of call.
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A view of Amazon’s fulfillment center at Meadowville Technology Park in Chesterfield, Va. Photo Courtesy of Chesterfield Economic Development.