Jeffersonville, IN Amazon Fulfillment Center Tour Recap
by Becky Trowbridge, on April 24, 2018
Have you ever toured an Amazon fulfillment center? I recently had the opportunity to visit the SDF8 facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and really enjoyed getting a glimpse behind the scenes of FBA operations. (Fun fact: I spent a couple of Q4s delivering packages part-time to make a little extra holiday cash, so seeing how everything comes together before that step was very interesting from that perspective as well!)
Starting the Tour
The tour began with a short video presentation that showed an item’s journey through a fulfillment center. As you might expect, a 1.2 million square foot fulfillment center operates at a dull roar, so individual headsets were provided so that everyone could hear the tour guide. My tour group consisted of about fifteen people. I spoke with a couple that fulfills their orders through both FBA and their own warehouse as well as a group of folks from a name brand vendor. It seemed like most people on the tour were part of the eCommerce industry, so it was interesting to hear their insightful questions as we moved throughout the warehouse.
Our tour of the actual facility began with a peek at how items are sorted on their way out of the building. Then we walked over to a large balcony area where we could see all of the receiving lines in action. Shipments are scanned in their original packaging, which is later recycled. The Jeffersonville facility specifically focuses on soft-line merchandise, such as apparel. It also fulfills high-value retail items (up to $300,000 value), which are stored in a secure area. During peak, these items are gift-wrapped by hand for the lucky recipients. There was a huge area full of bins where products from other fulfillment centers are stored temporarily to allow for fast fulfillment. It was kind of surprising to see how intermingled the items were, but the system certainly seems to work!
One of the highlights of the tour for me was seeing the SLAM (Scan, Label, Apply and Manifest) line weigh and label packages in a matter of seconds. It was amazing to see how fast that process could be accomplished through automation. Each item is scanned for weight and dimension, the information is sent to a data facility and the shipping data is returned to the Jeffersonville facility and printed on the label, which is then applied to the package using air pressure. Consider how long it would take a human to complete this process—it would probably take the entire six seconds to peel the label from the backing and stick it to the package!
Since Amazon subsidiary Zappos has operations just across the river from Jeffersonville in Kentucky, there were rows containing thousands of shoes, which are also fulfilled through this facility. That was amazing to see, but my favorite part of the tour was definitely the imaging studio, where professional photographers take product photos to go along with the product listings. After touring the studio, we returned to the room where we had watched the video and were escorted out of the building by friendly Amazon employees.
My overall impression was that this place is HUGE. The building was very clean and felt airy thanks to the skylights installed overhead. Bright yellow accents throughout the fulfillment center add energy to the environment. There was a major emphasis on safety throughout our tour as well as throughout the building itself, with posted reminders to help keep employees safe. This facility employs about 2,500 individuals year round, with numbers rising during peak season.
There was also an emphasis on employee growth within the company, with clear paths for advancement for current employees. Issues are posted on large whiteboard for all to see with outlined milestones and an owner to ensure that they are resolved in a timely manner. This keeps the facility running smoothly and helps everyone feel like they are being heard and problems will be addressed.
Set Up Your Fulfillment Center Tour
If you’d like to tour a fulfillment center, click here to learn more. Be aware that these tours can fill up months in advance, so book early!
Have you toured an Amazon fulfillment center? I'd love to hear about your experience below!