The Southern Berks News

Bringing gifts home

How Amazon’s warehouse near Shartlesvi­lle prepares for the busy holiday season

- By Andrew Kulp akulp@readingeag­

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.”

 ?? ANDREW KULP ?? Jose Abanto, a learning operations manager at the Amazon fulfillmen­t center in Upper Bern Township, grabs a Spiderman T-shirt and American flag Crocs for a customer.
ANDREW KULP Jose Abanto, a learning operations manager at the Amazon fulfillmen­t center in Upper Bern Township, grabs a Spiderman T-shirt and American flag Crocs for a customer.

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