Whitley WI visit the Amazon Fulfilment Centre

Manchester Airport, October 7th

19 members gathered in the car park and were met by a group of Amazon staff. Security was very tight. Once inside the building, one of 20 in the UK, we assembled in an upstairs reception room where we were introduced to our guide and his team.

We were each issued with a hi-viz waistcoat emblazoned with VISITOR and an individual intercom system. The intercom system was a very efficient way of each of us being able to hear what the guide was saying. 

We set off into the working part of the enormous building the size of 3 football pitches.  We were shown how the 1000s of items were sorted onto Tote, or black boxes, ready for packing. Every step of the way the extraordinarily complicated computer system kept track of all the items. If one of the humans omitted a step in the chain the computer pointed out their mistake and the process could not continue until it was put right.  We were shown how the robots moved the stacks round the warehouse. Silently, hundreds of tall yellow stacks loaded with people’s orders were moving without colliding with not a human to be seen from where we were standing although we had been told that there were 600 employees per shift.  Passing through the “Learning area” we learnt that employees are encouraged to follow further education and apprenticeships. Next was the packing department – once again computers giving the instructions. After being shown how it was done Chris Jones and Janet Patterson had a go with great efficiency.  It was then off to the dispatch department where the labels to destinations round the world were applied by machines using compressed air. Throughout the process every parcel reaching its correct destination depended on machines reading the bar code labels. Conveyer belts whirred quietly all through our visit as they moved the items along. There were a lot of questions from the fascinated members ranging from being an employee to the company carbon footprint. Each year they have a chosen charity which they support and some unfulfilled orders are sent to charity shops – two of our members have experience of this.   On our way out we all passed through a security camera as do all employees each time they finish their shift.   Our guide made our visit fascinating, informative and fun and gave us plenty to think about.

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