Amazon hosts community leaders for grand opening of new Jacksonville fulfillment center

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Amazon’s new fulfillment center on Jacksonville’s Northside opened its doors to elected officials and community leaders including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Friday, April 6, as part of the facility’s special grand opening event.

The Pecan Park Road fulfillment center started operating last year and utilizes robotics and other state-of-the-art technologies to serve customers and decrease shipping times. General Manager Bernard Schmidt said the most innovative aspect of the facility is its use of automation.

"Our Amazon robotics gives us the ability to have more capacity and take on more inventory," Schmidt said in an interview with the Recorder. "What that means is we're able to fulfill more customers."

Schmidt noted the Amazon fulfillment center has a "culture of continuous improvement" that allows the e-commerce and computing company to efficiently manage and run day-to-day operations. The general manager added that keeping things organized and labeled helps manage customer demand and the volume of packages passing through the facility.

"The bar continues to get higher and higher," he said. "Years ago, you'd probably wait 10 days to get something. Now, two- to four-day delivery is the norm … same-day is the norm. We really believe in fulfilling that customer demand."

To fulfill demand, Schmidt said it's important to leverage Amazon's robotic drive units to make sure products are shipped out efficiently. The general manager stated at a pre-tour press conference that Amazon robotics have reduced processing times from hours to mere minutes, which enables faster shipping times to the customer.

During the tour, attendees observed staff members stocking inventory on shelves and "picking" items to be shipped. Instead of walking back and forth to different areas of the facility, employees simply scan items in one place and lay them on automated driving units that can carry shelves in any direction. When staff members need certain items from inventory, the robots retrieve and carry them to Amazon staff members before they are prepared for shipment.

The Jacksonville facility is geared toward small items, such as DVDs, books and smaller electronics. The facility operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week (barring major holidays or significant weather events).

Before the tour, Rutherford asserted the facility will create thousands of new jobs and subsequently lower crime.

“I can tell you as the former sheriff of Duval County, nothing fights crime like a good-paying job,” he said. “That's why in Congress I was very proud to vote for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is helping corporations all across America grow… I'm very proud of Amazon's footprint. Thank you all very much for what you're doing to help improve the lifestyle here.”

Curry, who also spoke prior to the tour, said that Amazon’s speedy delivery times have changed his life. Furthermore, the Jacksonville mayor commended the private sector for working hard throughout history to improve people’s lives.

“I fully and deeply believe that the free markets and the private sector have done so much throughout human history to better people's lives,” he said. “A job is not only how to take care of your family – pay the bills – it's dignity and it's purpose and Amazon is giving thousands of people opportunity here in Jacksonville, Florida.”

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