Inside Amazon's new freight center in Sioux Falls, high-tech robots support human workers - SiouxFalls.

Inside Amazon’s new freight center in Sioux Falls, high-tech robots support human workers – SiouxFalls.

October 13, 2022

Imagine everyone in South Dakotan standing under one roof, not cramped shoulder to shoulder but with room to move.

That’s the capacity of Amazon’s new fulfillment center on North Marion Road in Foundation Park, which opened earlier this month and ideally expects to add 144 employees a week to reach 1,500 workers.

“All South Dakota residents can fit in the building if we give ourselves 3 feet,” General Manager Tim Chuat said.

Most importantly, the fulfillment center when fully operational will accept 8 million items each week, and send 12 million items to customers.

This also means that Amazon customers in Sioux Falls and the Tri-state area will receive next-day shipping based on their orders. Items that come out of this facility can be as small as a toothbrush or as large as a microwave oven or instant pot. Items larger than this will be shipped from another facility.

“We are very happy to be in Sioux Falls and serve our clients here, and we are thrilled to start the business,” Choate said.

The 100-foot-high building opened although many other new facilities across the country were delayed. Chuat said Amazon worked on setting up the Sioux Falls facility because this market needs fast delivery. In addition to the Tri-State area, it would also include eastern Montana and eastern Wyoming.

“Amazon saw that should be a priority for people in the region, so we’re pushing that forward,” the general manager said. “We are in a market that needs fast delivery. Amazon is all about speed of delivery.”

This is the second new fulfillment center Choate has helped launch. He came to Sioux Falls from Salt Lake City, where he spent four years. Originally from California, Choate joined Amazon 10 years ago as a picker or assistant working on floor-fill orders.

“I walk 20 miles a day,” he said.

Existing employees won’t put in nearly as many miles during the shift. Instead of walking 16 to 20 miles once during a 10-hour work shift, pickers will now cover about two miles.

Amazon has revised its system so that pickers stay in one place while yellow pods operated by blue robots at their base are brought to partner stations. Then a light shines on one of the capsule’s multiple compartments, directing the picker to the item that was ordered.

“These are next-generation bots,” said Vincent Gardner, assistant site leader. The battery works, when they need to be recharged, they send themselves to charging stations.

Chuat said thousands of bots will operate at the execution center when it is fully operational. He said they do not replace human workers but enhance the work they do.

“We have robots not to replace employees but to help employees get an easier job,” he said. “We have the same amount of employees on our bot side as we do on our non-robotic side. We look forward to helping our employees get an easy job that we like to say.”

Once the picker collects everything the customer orders, the items, which have been placed in yellow boxes, are moved to the packing department.

Currently, Amazon has 80 collectors operating on a small portion of the five-story, 649,000-square-foot building. It will total 2.9 million square feet operating when fully launched due to the additional floors. Shifts operate from 7:30 AM to 6 PM and from 6 PM to 5 AM Four shifts will be served: Sunday through Wednesday and Wednesday through Saturday.

“We will eventually operate 24 hours a day,” Chuat said. “We look forward to ramping up our 24-hour operations starting next week.”

About 80 collectors will work each shift. However, Amazon’s philosophy is to “train everyone in everything,” Chuat said. “So when you come in the door, you will be training in your primary job, say, pick. But we will train you to pack the boxes, and we will train you to unpack the boxes.”

To ensure the safety of workers, Amazon has designed special vests that create an invisible shield, protecting them from robot-operated machines, Gardner said.

This concern for safety includes proper handling of packages. At least once a week, five to eight employees will gather in a crowd on the packing floor to watch videos emphasizing how to operate safely and in an ergonomically appropriate manner.

In a media demo Thursday, four Amazon assistants practiced an exercise designed to strengthen the ankles and learned how to bend from the hips when picking up beams. The videos are available in several languages, including Somali, French, and also in American Sign Language.

“We want people to enjoy being at work and doing great work,” Gardner said.

“Safety (is) the primary issue we want to address,” Chuat said. “We take the time to get our partners off the floor to extend or address any complaints they may have and to help them achieve success.”

Scott Siroca, a regional spokesperson, said Amazon will focus on hiring to reach its full strength over the next three to five months and “very continuously into the future.”

“We’re really trying to ramp up our process,” he said. “The more people that work here, the more packages we can get, the better we can serve our customers, especially in the Sioux Falls area.”

Siroca said Amazon offers a starting salary of $16 an hour with a difference in night shift. Amazon benefits, which start on the first day of business, are an additional $3.50 per hour.

Maintenance, security and other positions are open. The directors came from Amazon’s facilities in California, Iowa, and Nebraska, among other states, and about 16 management positions are filled.

Amazon also offers programs like Career Choice, which pays college tuition to the employee. Future jobs don’t have to be related to working at Amazon.

“If you want to become a doctor or a teacher, we offer you education,” Siroca said.

The Quay of the Fulfillment Center currently operates seven semi-trucks and seven trucks. When ramped up, that will increase to 60 interior trucks and 80 trucks.

The fulfillment center in Sioux Falls is named FSD1, using a system that takes its identification from the city’s three-letter airport code.

Will there be an FSD2 someday?

“More is coming?” Chuat said, answering a question with a smile and another question.

Amazon already operates a delivery station in Northeast Sioux Falls. You receive packages from the new fulfillment center in the Northwest and also from other centers in the area.

Look inside the Sioux Falls Amazon website that’s already up and running – and ramp up more

#Amazons #freight #center #Sioux #Falls #hightech #robots #support #human #workers #SiouxFalls

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *