'You name it, it's here:' Amazon’s Westside warehouse for larger items can hold millions of them
It has the capacity to hold millions of items — its general manager estimates 3 million — depending on size and seasonality.
That’s a lot of Instant Pots, microwaves, child car seats, ladders, power washers, bed rails, printers, home air filters, high chairs, boxes of Rubbermaid containers, lawn chairs, dog food, kitty litter, garden tools, sports equipment and any other larger items that a customer might order through the e-commerce giant.
And diapers, lots of diapers, such as for Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program.
“It was interesting as I walked through the building yesterday,” said General Manager John Fogarty in June on the first day of summer at Amazon’s Cecil Commerce Center warehouse.
“We have a bin of probably 400 boxes of pool noodles sitting right next to bin of area rugs,” Fogarty said.
“You name it, it’s here.”
The Northwest Jacksonville fulfillment center near Jacksonville International Airport handles small consumer items, such as books, electronics, bottles of shampoo and small toys.
That warehouse opened Sept. 1 and hosted media and elected officials April 6 for a tour.
The West Jacksonville center at 13333 103rd St. opened Oct. 1 to less public fanfare.
There, Fogarty leads a team of about 1,000 full-time workers and last year added 500 more for the holidays. Seasonal hiring is based on demand.
It handles larger consumer items, generally up to 50 pounds.
Moving the merchandise
Goods move in and out quickly, stacked in racks, retrieved, processed, labeled and sent by conveyors to the outgoing trucks and then shipped by various routes to customers based on their delivery needs.
Within a few hours after a customer clicks “buy,” the items are picked, packed and shipped to meet the promised delivery date.
“One of the reasons we’re here is to add that speed-to-market to our customers in Jacksonville, in Northeast Florida, in Florida in general,” Fogarty said.
“The way our system works is if you place an order, our goal is to get that order on your doorstep on the day that we promised,” he said.
Northeast Florida customers might get their goods from a Jacksonville fulfillment center, but not necessarily.
When an order is placed, “it goes through a pretty elaborate algorithm. It looks at what buildings have the inventory,” Fogarty said.
The ordered inventory might be in one of several centers.
Amazon has more than 100 operating fulfillment centers in the United States and Canada, including 10 in Florida.
“Then, which can get it to you on the day that we promised to get it to you?” That narrows it to one or two, depending on the customer’s location.
“And then the last thing it will look at is, what’s the cheapest transportation cost? A lot of times for us, we may not deliver in the local area unless you’re asking for it next day because it’s cheaper to ship it, say UPS Ground, out of Tennessee or South Carolina, as opposed to shipping it UPS next-day out of this building,” he said.
Shipped all over
Fogarty has seen packages shipped from the Westside center to California and internationally.
“It really just depends on what inventory we have in the building and where that inventory is placed throughout the network,” he said.
Orders leaving the Cecil Commerce Center facility might be shipped to customer locations across the U.S.
Amazon works with delivery partners, including United Parcel Service, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service.
The variety and quantity of inventory stocked at the fulfillment centers are determined by Amazon, which figures out how to place goods in the warehouses where they can be delivered the fastest and most economically to customers.
At Cecil Commerce Center inventory arrives by carriers — coming into one side of the building and shipped out on the other side.
“You’ll see all sorts of stuff,” Fogarty said. Inventory changes seasonally but some items are year-round, such as fishing poles in Florida.
More than half of Amazon’s inventory stems from Fulfillment by Amazon, which is the service for third-party sellers. Amazon can ship their items directly to customers and offer Amazon Prime benefits, free shipping, and other services.
Sellers store their products at Amazon fulfillment centers and Amazon picks, packs and ships the orders.
The rest comes from millions of partners that sell their products on Amazon.
Holiday items start arriving in mid-October, which is when seasonal hiring generally starts.
Fogarty joined Amazon about seven years ago. Kyle Cherry, inbound senior operations manager, joined six years ago.
“The associates that have come in are creating a culture within the building,” he said.
“It’s been fantastic for us to always have people that want to be coming to work,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”