First look inside Amazon’s newest warehouse at Bowburn in Durham

AN inside look at Amazon’s newest warehouse in the North-East has revealed how the online retailer is preparing for one of the busiest times of the year.

Ahead of Black Friday, The Northern Echo has been given exclusive access inside Amazon’s Durham site at the Integra 61 development, near Bowburn.

The 550,000 sq ft site, which employs more than 1,000 permanent and more than 1,000 seasonal workers, officially opened its doors six weeks ago.

SEE MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Amazon’s warehouse in Darlington

Since then the site, which is named ‘MME2’ – based on the airport code of the nearest airport, Teesside Airport – has been ramping up operations ahead of November 27.

Take a look around below:

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Like other sites, a Covid testing facility has been added with parts of the site modified for social distancing.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

New measures include the limiting of staff members able to use the canteen at any one time, staggered breaks and perspex screens added in areas where social distancing is not possible.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The opening of Amazon Durham comes as the retailer opened its slightly smaller Darlington site, in Symmetry Park, in April this year – this site has an extra floor. 

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Richard Thompson, site leader at Amazon Durham, said the site’s “volume” of orders is continuing to climb ahead of Black Friday.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

He said: “We’ve just launched, so our volume is continuing to climb and as we run into Black Friday, our customers will be ordering Christmas presents.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

“There’s lots of sales going on so we expect that volume to continue and my job is to make sure we can meet those customer needs.”

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Mr Thompson added: “We’ve prepared for this as we hired for launch, we hired more than 1,000 permanent associates and more than 1,000 seasonal staff and will continue to hire as the customer volume climbs.”

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The site, which operates in much the same way to Amazon’s Darlington site, features some of the retailer’s latest technology.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

One worker, who picks items from the robotic shelves, said she had noticed a clear rise in the number of orders being processed by the team during the busier period.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Danielle Ferguson said: “With Black Friday and Christmas, we’re now starting to notice everything is picking up a lot more.”

Items are stored “randomly”, but computer systems track every single item so that they can be later ‘picked’ by Amazon’s robotics system.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

In order to bring workers the products needed, the robots use AI technologies to map out the most efficient and sophisticated route using 2D barcodes.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Conveyor belts reduce the need for workers to lift ‘tote’ boxes – all items within the site must fit in a regular size tote in order to be shipped.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

There is a lot of technology is used in the pack process – workers here scan items and the computer tells them what box size is required for each product’s size and weight.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

If the wrong item was accidentally packed, the order is routed off from the conveyor to individual workers.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

If an item does not match, a worker then sorts through and manually ensures the item still arrives at the correct place within the site.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Although we were not given an exact figure of the number of products stored at the site, we were told there are millions of items held for dispatch.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

From Amazon Durham parcels go to a sort centre before being delivered to customers – items are shipped via all forms of routes, including by train, road, air and sea.

SEE MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Amazon’s warehouse in Darlington

The recent opening of the site comes as the retailer has further plans to open another site in the North-East, although the details of that are yet to be confirmed. 

The Northern Echo | Durham