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Amazon facility offers exclusive first look

Sara McManamy-Johnson • Updated Aug 21, 2013 at 9:59 PM

Amazon will celebrate the grand opening of its state-of-the-art fulfillment center Thursday.

While the facility accepted its first piece of inventory – a set of poker chips – in February, Lebanon’s General Manager Mark Marzano said the facility is still ramping up to full capacity.

According to Marzano, the 1.2-million-square-foot Lebanon facility specializes in the larger products.

“We have two different types of [fulfillment centers],” said Marzano. “One of our types has large product, and then we have small product. [Lebanon has] the luxury of all of the big items.”

Marzano pointed to one oddly shaped box.

“This is actually a truck bumper guard,” said Marzano.

Just a few feet away were boxes emblazoned with large, flat-screen televisions.

“We do a lot of big-screen t.v.s,” said Marzano. “Last holiday season [Amazon] sold enough flat-screen t.v.s to cover the grass of all the NFL stadiums.”

But the facility definitely does not just stock televisions. Products range from kayaks and canoes to bicycle tires to lawnmowers and more.

“Amazon wants to provide all of the products anybody would ever want,” said Marzano. “You get to see a lot of that variation in this building just because of the unique size of products we carry.”

Throughout the building, all the varying products intermingle, whether on the shelves or on pallets resting on the concrete floor. As opposed to traditional organization methods, products do not have assigned locations in the building.

After a product is received, an employee – called a “stower” stores it wherever possible.

“They randomly stow it where there’s room, scan it to a location and then we know where it is,” said Marzano.

Each available storage spot has a barcode, so when the stower puts a product in that location and scans that barcode, the computer immediately updates so that not only can the customer immediately order it online, but the person retrieving, or “picking” ordered items for shipment can quickly find it.

In fact, to help speed that process, pickers use a computer-generated route to quickly gather items. As orders come in, computer software analyzes each item’s scanned location and generates pick lists sequenced for the fastest route.

“We feel like that random stow is unique,” said Marzano. “It definitely gives us that efficiency.”

And that efficiency comes in especially handy during the holiday season. According to figures released by Amazon in December, the online retailer sold more than 26.5 million items last year on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after the traditional Black Friday holiday shopping kickoff.

Marzano said about 500 people work full-time in the Lebanon facility, but that number could almost double by the holiday season.

“It varies because of customer demand,” said Marzano.

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