What you will find in this text:
- The main aspects of a warehouse
- The Amazon Distribution Centre
- What is expected of the Amazon Distribution Centre’s maintenance and facilities professionals
- Maintenance and asset management at the Amazon Distribution Centre
In 1994, Jeff Bezos, the second-wealthiest person in the world, founded the huge multinational technology company Amazon, from his garage in Bellevue, Washington. Nowadays, the world’s largest online retailer relies on a bit more space to ship its products all around the globe....
But where? You might ask...
One such space is the massive MQY1 fulfilment centre, which opened in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee during the summer of 2021. This 3.6 million-square-foot warehouse:
- Can fit 13 American football fields on each of its 5 storeys;
- Makes use of over 12 miles of conveyor belts;
- Has a whopping 25 miles of wiring.
The 92-foot-tall building is impressive not only in its scale but also in terms of the innovative technologies it makes use of. Inside you’ll find 40,000 totes, which are the boxes used to move products in and around the facility, to be sorted and packaged by the centre’s 3,000 employees. Hundreds of robotic drive units move under the storage units, lifting them up and transporting them to employees ready to deal with the items.
This particular fulfilment centre is dedicated to shipping smaller products, with the maximum dimension of 18 x 18 inches. However, the scale of the operation is no small task. Let’s take a look inside one of Amazons biggest warehouses...
The main aspects of a warehouse
But first, what make a warehouse a warehouse?
Warehouse operations are for the most part invisible to customers, but they undoubtably play a crucial behind-the-scenes role in ensuring on-time delivery.
Companies like Amazon pride themselves on their super-fast delivery services and this all stems from well-managed and efficient warehouses – where products are stored, sorted and shipped off quickly and correctly.
A well-managed warehouse requires specialised equipment and an efficient workforce, all working together like a well-oiled machine. Safety precautions and systems have to be put in place and equipment and machinery has to be checked regularly in order to ensure the smooth running of the warehouse facility.
The Amazon Distribution Centre
Amazons MQY1 fulfilment centre in Tennessee is a marvel of technical innovation and one of the most automated warehouses in the world. While it still makes use of 3,000 warehouse workers, robotics is essential to the warehouse’s operations.
But why robots?
Actually, one of the main reasons Amazon decided to implement robotics at MQY1 is safety. In 2020, Amazon warehouse injury rate were almost double those at warehouses run by other companies. 40 percent of those injuries were musculoskeletal – that’s aches and strains that come from repetitive motion.
In order to turn this around, Amazon invested billions in robots to perform heavy lifting and transportation jobs, meaning employees no longer have to reach up or bend down to collect products, and can instead focus on sorting and packaging. Computer screens also help them along, by letting packers know which products they need and what box to build for each one.
You might be wondering:
How do the robots stay out of the way of the warehouse workers?
Sensors prevent the robotic devices from running into workers onsite, so Amazon employees can safely roam around the warehouse without having to worry about getting run over.
Other facilities such as Working Well focus on safety, injury prevention and overall wellness for employees. In addition, employees also benefit from Mind & Body Moments, which are hourly cues at their workstations that direct them through a series of activities to help them recharge, reenergize, and prevent injuries. At many Amazon sites, the program has undergone testing. The exercises include stretching, breathing techniques, and mental reflections.
What is expected of the Amazon Distribution Centre’s maintenance and facilities professionals
Working at an Amazon fulfilment centre as a maintenance and facilities professional involves a diverse range of tasks, including managing and maintaining equipment and ensuring rigorous safety precautions are adhered to.
This is a highly automated workplace with plenty of specialised technical equipment, so preventative maintenance measures must be put in place to ensure failures are spotted before they take place, which would potentially slow down productivity.
This same philosophy applies to the workforce too, in order to prevent accidents and injuries. At the beginning of each shift, workers perform a series of stretches and exercises relevant to their position. Supervisors might also encourage employees to take part in a group activity while watching a wellness video.
Moreover, efforts are made to set up ergonomically sound workstations that are appropriate for their specific activity, including mats that lessen fatigue for employees standing for extended periods of time, as well as equipment and supplies that limit the need for awkward movements. Finally, there are machines resembling vending machines throughout the building that provide all kinds of personal protective equipment.
Maintenance and facilities professional monitor the stations and work areas to make sure employees have what they need and are working safely. They also have to monitor the performance of equipment and ensure that repairs and routine maintenance are scheduled and assigned to the appropriate employees.
Maintenance and asset management at the Amazon Distribution Centre
As we have seen, the huge and innovatively managed warehouse at Amazon MQY1 is home to plenty of new technologies and working practices. Assets like robotic equipment, while extremely useful, need to be correctly maintained and looked after. Each piece of machinery needs to be monitored to ensure the system as a whole run smoothly.
All this means that maintenance and asset management at the Amazon distribution centre are incredibly important aspects to consider. Maintenance and asset management software is one way in which businesses like Amazon coordinate maintenance procedures and look after their valuable assets.
If there’s one thing that the Amazon MQY1 fulfilment centre tells us, it’s that automation and safety can go hand in hand.
In order to deal with injuries and accidents, Amazon looked to robots to try and relieve repetitive strain that was afflicting its workers, to great success. However, robots are incredibly valuable assets that need to be maintained to ensure they work as effectively as possible and that no mistakes occur. That’s why maintenance and asset management software is crucial to how Amazon keeps its workforce (and its robots) healthy and happy.
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