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4/4/2016 1:40:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

An Insider's Look at the Hustle and Bustle of Amazon

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This story appears in the April 4 print edition of Transport Topics.

Amazon.com conjures up many images in the minds of consumers, shippers and investors.

For consumers, it’s an online candy store of goodies. For shippers, it’s a one-stop logistics supermarket. For investors, it’s the way of the future.

But what makes it all tick are the worker bees who can number in excess of 300,000 during the peak of the Christmas shopping season. I should know, because I was once one of them.

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In approaching the Amazon fulfillment center in Middletown, Delaware, the first thing that strikes is the enormity of the building. Though not as huge as the company’s 28-football-fields-long facility in Phoenix, it is impressive nonetheless.

In Delaware, the 800,000-square-foot Amazon center contains hundreds of thousands of items from digital cameras to board games to books to coffee makers to laundry detergent to candy. There are at least 50 regional fulfillment centers and about 20 smaller sorting centers across the United States alone.

When you walk through the glass doors and scan yourself through the security turnstile, you are quickly swallowed up in a huge space whose initial calmness belies the hectic activities going on farther into the interior.

At the Middletown facility, at least 2,000 workers work around the clock to pick merchandise off stacks of shelves that rise more than three stories, while sorters are constantly restocking items to keep the cycle going smoothly.

On the shelves, you see a wide assortment of products — kids games and beads alongside kitchenware — as if a child had quickly cleaned up his room by putting items anywhere they fit.

But there is logic to this seemingly random placement of goods.

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By Doug Scott
Contributing Writer


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