Can you picture 27 football fields side by side? That’s the size of Amazon’s first Colorado fulfillment center, which opened in Aurora last September. On Wednesday, the company opened its doors to The Denver Post for a tour.
The 1-million-square-foot facility, which can be seen from Interstate 70, has 500 aisles with “a couple million” products stacked nearly 40 feet high, said Joe Dudek, the site’s general manager. Products are larger items, from canoes and bicycles to patio furniture and dog food. Most orders wind up at a Colorado address, but the site packs up boxes that could get shipped around the world if the Aurora warehouse happens to have it in stock. The warehouse operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The city of Aurora offered a $1.18 million sales-tax rebate incentive to lure Amazon to town and build its estimated $130 million project. At the time, Amazon pledged to hire 1,000 full-time workers with an average wage of up to $36,914 over 10 years. That goal has already been met and could go up during busy seasons, Dudek said.
Humans rule the Aurora facility, unlike robotics fulfillment center Amazon plans to open in Thornton later this year — but even then, that facility will employ 1,500 humans because robotics efficiency means capacity to fulfill more orders, said Amazon spokeswoman Lauren Lynch.
But even at this more traditional fulfillment center, automation is evident. Cherry pickers use a wire to guide the vehicle down narrow aisles and stop at the location of a needed product. Boxes moving along a conveyor belt are scanned and weighed at a check point without even stopping, followed by a label machine that prints out and slaps on an address label to the box. And when humans are part of the process, a computer screen shows the worker the exact box to pick while another machine spits out the exact amount of tape.
“We’re very efficient,” Dudek said.
Update 5/3/2018: This story was updated at 3 p.m. to add that the employee count at the future robotics facility in Thornton.