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.
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:
Like other sites, a Covid testing facility has been added with parts of the site modified for social distancing.
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 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.
Richard Thompson, site leader at Amazon Durham, said the site’s “volume” of orders is continuing to climb ahead of Black Friday.
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.
“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.”
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 site, which operates in much the same way to Amazon’s Darlington site, features some of the retailer’s latest technology.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If the wrong item was accidentally packed, the order is routed off from the conveyor to individual workers.
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.
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.
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.
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.