Christmas 2022: immersion in an Amazon warehouse at its peak activity

The 182,000 m² four-story building, which was inaugurated at the end of August 2021, looks like an ultra-modern terminal: security gates, employees wearing overalls, permanent background noise. And for three weeks, the 3,350 employees and a thousand temporary workers experience their peak activity when Christmas approaches.

“There are hundreds of thousands of parcels leaving for the sorting centers every day. The rush of goods arriving occurred between the end of October and the middle of November. we can store 30 million items on the site“, details Pierre-Louis Debroise, director of operations in the Mosel area of ​​Amazon, the eighth and last to date to emerge from the ground in France. If the ground floor is intended for receiving goods and packaging, the three floors of 45,000 m² each are reserved for storage, ultra-secure and fully robotic.

Like a football pitch

Pierre-Louis Debroise, Director of Operations

The loading docks, on level 0, therefore receive dozens of trucks every day. A conveyor belt enters each truck to remove all the boxes all of which are opened manually. “The boxes come in front of me. I take a box, I scan it. The screen tells me how many products the box will contain. There I have four boxes of Playmobil. I put them in a box. And it goes into the warehouse, on the floors ,” says Sébastien, who acts as the first link in the chain. The movement of goods is ensured by a system of carriers whose route is… 25 kilometers.

Sébastien, an Amazon employee, checks the products coming from suppliers

Credit: Dimitri Rahmelow

No way to physically access the stock itself if you are not authorized. Only a few employees have the necessary equipment to cross the gates. Sensors keep an eye on the slightest break-in attempt. “Overall, it’s like a big football pitch, with grids all around. And the whole stock is spread out on yellow shelves about two meters apart. These shelves move by themselves, thanks to little robots. So nobody travels 15 kilometers today to pick up customer orders”, describes Pierre-Louis Debroise.

Video game with pairs of socks

Storage of products at Amazon

Storage of products at Amazon

Credit: Dimitri Rahmelow

The employees therefore collect the unpacked products on the ground floor from the floors. A yellow cabinet automatically presents itself to them. After this, everyone can freely arrange the products in the boxes according to their size. A smart camera recognizes the box where the just scanned item has been placed. Video games can thus rub off on a pair of socks. Each item is also weighed on arrival, enabling the computers to identify discrepancies and therefore highlight errors.

The preparation of the order is carried out in the same way: an employee receives on his screen the location of the product in the shelf presented to him. He then places the items in a plastic box, which then goes back to the ground floor for packaging. “If there is a mistake, I can be responsible. I am one of the essential links. But I can be wrong”, admits Patrick, who nevertheless has a photo of the article he has to choose. The margin of error is estimated at less than 1% by management.

Fifteen different packaging

And among the last gnomes preparing the order, Isabelle, who occupies one of the 200 packing places. Fifteen boxes at the front facilitate transport and prevent breakage. “The product arrives, I scan it. The computer tells me which packaging to choose. There it is a coffee machine. It tells me E7. So I put the product in the box, I fill it with some kind of paper mache. I tap and it starts again,’ she explains.

Packages packages at Amazon

Packages packages at Amazon

Credit: Dimitri Rahmelow

A final barcode enables a computer to identify the customer and label the delivery address. All the boxes are finally distributed in trucks according to geographical area. Sorting centers and carriers are then responsible for delivering the packages as quickly as possible. To avoid disappointment on the evening of December 24th.

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