The Southern Berks News
Bringing gifts home
How Amazon’s warehouse near Shartlesville prepares for the busy holiday season
There are some advantages to having an Amazon fulfillment center located pretty much in your backyard, particularly during the holiday shopping season.
While international supply chain woes are causing concerns that some gifts could be in short supply this year or not delivered in time for celebrations, Amazon facilities like the one that began operating in Upper Bern Township in 2020 are ramping up now to meet the needs of local communities.
And although leaders with the ecommerce giant still recommend getting your shopping done early to avoid missing out on any particular item, they are offering customers assurances that service will not suffer as a result of increased volume.
“This area (Berks County), it’s a great space because we’re so close to and able to reach so many customers,” said Ed Buddenhagen, general manager for the year-old fulfillment center. “It really reduces transportation time and the cost to do it.
“When we build a fulfillment center, it’s definitely with customers in mind. How do we make transactions have added value to them and reduce the time to get the product as well as the cost? If we’re close to customers, we can do that much more effectively.”
As a company, Amazon invests in technology that can help forecast which products will be most indemand during the holidays in an effort to curtail shortages, a spokesperson said.
But at the local level, Buddenhagen is gearing up for the influx in orders with an old-fashioned resource: more manpower.
TX Lettershead: How an Amazon fulfillment center works
Sitting at a whopping 1 million square feet in size, the Amazon fulfillment center near Shartlesville currently processes 300,000 products per day on average, the company says — but at its holiday peak, that figure is expected to double to 600,000.
That’s both inbound and outbound products. This particular warehouse primarily carries “soft goods” such as clothing and shoes, so when a customer orders something not on the premises, the items are either shipped in or out so everything is delivered in one package.
Conveyor belts and robots — yes, robots that look akin to futuristic skateboards — aid the movement of products through the facility, yet it’s ultimately human hands that need to collect and sort products.
A huge portion of the warehouse is dedicated to storing the massive library of consumer goods available for purchase, all carefully organized on four stories worth of shelves that span larger than a football field.
The products are then whisked away to the other side of the building to be either packaged for delivery or readied for transport to the next facility, then ultimately dropped off at somebody’s doorstep, all tasks handled by workers.
It’s a tremendous undertaking.
The Shartlesville location employs around 2,500 fulland part-time workers, with a whopping 800 of those brought on in just the last six weeks to make Amazon the third-largest employer in Berks and intending to hire 600 more.
“We need to continue to add capacity to serve the customers,” Buddenhagen said. “With how many people count on Amazon, we need more ability to ship in the area and deliver those smiles for the holidays.”
Supply and demand
The uptick in hiring and the facility’s proximity to so many homes in the region will go a long way toward allowing Amazon to serve its customers during the holidays.
And the truth is fulfillment centers begin readying for their busy season even farther in advance than people might imagine.
“We plan for peak and get ready throughout the year,” Buddenhagen said. “So, Jan. 1 is when we started planning for it.”
Regardless, Amazon is still prone to product shortages if its vendors run out, which means it’s best to order items now if you know they’re available.
“I’d always encourage shoppers to start early, but we’ll be making deliveries all the way up to Dec. 24,” Buddenhagen said.
As long as the product can be located in Amazon’s warehouses, though, the operation is ready to get packages to doorsteps quickly
At a site level we’re prepared to get everything out to customers on time,” Buddenhagen said.
“Our shoppers have come to rely on Amazon to get them their packages, and we look forward to getting them what they’re shopping for. Whether you plan or procrastinate, this holiday season that will not be different.”