Hi! My name is Kazuko Ohzono and I am a Westminster Exchange student from Tokyo, Japan, currently studying at Westminster Business School for one year. I was born and raised in Tokyo, and I’ve always wanted to study abroad, to explore different cultures, to try new things out and most of all to meet new people. Studying business in London is such a life-changing experience and still feels like a dream. It has been exciting and challenging at the same time but I’ve been loving this diverse and international environment for the past 5 months!
Since enrolling on the Digital Business module last semester early this Februray I got the chance to visit an Amazon UK warehouse and distribution centre together with a group of students on the International Business BA. I have been ordering from Amazon since 2006 to buy textbooks, groceries, electronics – literally everything – so this made me very curious to know how Amazon has such a variety of products available and also how they ship within such a short amount of time. Today I am happy to share the Amazon Tour experience and what happens after we click ‘buy’ on Amazon!
The Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Hemel Hempstead is just one hour’s drive from Westminster Business School’s Marylebone Campus. The first thing we saw was the giant warehouse with the iconic “amazon” logo emblazoned on the front. We entered the building and watched a short video introducing Amazon and its key operations. Then we went into the warehouse, which was 465,000 sq ft is size. There were hundreds of employees and a lot of machines throughout the building. Everyone seems to be very busy, quick and skillful. The tour guide told us that Christmas time is one of the busiest periods and they hire seasonal employees to cope with the demand.
As we walked around the warehouse, it was odd and surprising to see the various products being randomly spread around and stored on the shelves. The magazines were next to shampoos which were in turn next to wine glasses and electronics products… It was very difficult to figure out the strategy behind it.
From a vantage point above we could see the entire operation process at work. Our tour guide explained what happens within the warehouse. Once all the products arrive at the warehouse, the employees sort out and make sure everything is in good condition to be shipped out to the customers. Then the conveyor system carries the products to shelves located throughout the building. All the products are stored randomly on shelves where employees can find free space. The process of scanning every single product and the shelf enables the system to input the data to identify which product is stored on which shelf. By doing so, the “pickers” will be able to efficiently collect the products for the customers using the devices with the minimum travel distance.
After the “pickers” collect the products and put them in the totes, the conveyor takes them down to the “packers”. The “packers” scan the products to check and match them to the correct customer order, and then put them in a box. The computer in front of the “packers” tells them which box to use and the machine will then cut the packing tape to the exact length required to seal each box. Lastly, the ship labels are pasted to the boxes on the final conveyor right before the boxes are sorted out by delivery address and put on the vehicle. After a full explanation of how it all works, we then saw a demonstration of the packing first-hand.
To sum it up, the tour was an unforgettable experience. It was so much fun to see what happens once we make a purchase on Amazon and how this translates into action at this massive warehouse and distribution centre. I was also so happy to meet new people from Westminster Business School who I would never have had the chance to get to know otherwise.
This blog piece is a contribution from Westminster Exchange student Kazuko Ohzono.
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