Time To Go Full Mike Rowe For A Minute

Recently I started a new job at Amazon (Fulfillment Center). CST, or Control Systems Technician. Sorthand, my job is to make sure that all the little computerized bits and bobs that keep things runnning do so, so that the people that actually work hard can do their jobs. That’s what, or more correctly, who this post is about. All those other people working here.

I really haven’t been here that long but here are some observations. But first some tidbits to give a little perspective. The bulding sits on a foot print of 1.2 million square feet. It’s slightly longer than a third of a mile long. Some areas 2 floors, others 4. It’s filled with conveyor lines shuttling yellow totes along miles of conveyors. I’m not sure of the exact number, but I’d guess somewhere between 15 and 20 miles of it. And in those totes are orders for Amazon customers that are being picked, packaged and shipped. How many orders? The exact numbers are probably in the proprietary or trade secret category, so while I won’t give any out, put your pinky over your upper lip and the number that comes out of your mouth would still be under the record day here. It’s nicknamed “The Beast In The East.” It’s big. 13,000 steps (6+ miles) for me on a workday isn’t unusual. But that still isn’t the point.

The people I’m working with include nearly every ethnic and National origin you can think of. Even attempting to list them would do a disservice to the variety. The differences in nation or language of origin have no effect on the work ethic of the people picking and packing or shipping those boxes with that iconic little smile on the side. Nor the goodwill and respect shown to others around them.

Pickers and packers have quotas to keep up with. Are they fair or unrealistic? I’m neither a picker or a packer, so I couldn’t say. But what I will say is that they work hard. So do the the people supporting them, the “Water Spiders” that keep them supplied with boxes and other packing materials, and move countless full and empty totes around. Shipping crews that stack and move pallettes of goods onto trucks, or unload product for stock coming in. Maintenance crews that repair the things that are supposed to move and don’t, or the things that do move and aren’t meant to. Operations personnel that monitor what’s going where, and how fast. Training personnel that are constantly making sure that everyone is certified, trained or properly instructed on how to do their jobs (and on others if they want). Team leaders, Safety, or the numerous other jobs and skills necessary to make something this big run properly. Teenagers, new College graduates, retirees looking for supplimental income (or maybe for something to do because 70 is just too young to retire and sit around doing nothing). These are the people this little essay is all about. I’m not going to make any political statement other than to say, America, it’s right here. Hard working Americans.

In any large group of people, there are bound to be personllity conflicts. However, saying that, I have yet to see two people arguing. In fact, I see on a daily basis someone walking by and helping another associate out as they pass. Clearing a jam the other person can’t reach, helping with a heavy lift. Stepping out of the way and pausing a task so someone pushing a heavy truck or pallet jack can get by. Small acts of acknowelegement and consideration of the people around them.

And you really should be in the break room when 20 or 30 microwaves open and release the smells of home cooked meals from 6 of the 7 Continents.

If you couldn’t think it would get any better, the coffee machines that serve Cappuchinos, Macchiattos, hot chocolate and other variations are free!

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