Robotics, medical vending machines, and 20K tons of steel: A look inside Amazon's ABQ center - Albuquerque Journal

Robotics, medical vending machines, and 20K tons of steel: A look inside Amazon’s ABQ center

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

From the outside, the facility looks as if it can fit a small town into it. And it probably can.

Amazon’s newest fulfillment center, which opened on Albuquerque’s West Side last fall, spans about 2.5 million square feet. Located at 12945 Ladera NW, the facility was built using about 20,000 tons of steel – equivalent to the amount of steel in three Eiffel Towers, said Dan Monson, assistant general manager for the fulfillment center.

The facility also has about 10 miles of conveyance and over 4,000 robotics drives, which “serve to make the lives and jobs of our associates easier and safer,” Monson said. That ease in work from the help of technology allows the facility to process 10 packages per second.

Media members and city and state officials joined Amazon on Wednesday to tour the fulfillment center – the first official tour, Amazon officials said – to get a look into how the company that employs more than 3,500 in the state operates at its largest facility. The company also presented to the Economic Forum of Albuquerque at Hotel Albuquerque Wednesday morning, giving an update on the company’s happenings in the state.

“We’re bullish on New Mexico,” said Amazon economic development policy manager for the Mountain West region, Sam Bailey, whose company also has nearby facilities for sorting and delivery. The company is also planning another massive fulfillment center in Los Lunas.

Local impact

Amazon officials said Wednesday that the company has invested more than $250 million in the state since first expanding into New Mexico.

Bailey said the company typically gravitates toward states that it can create a “synergy” with so that it can become a “hyperlocal company.” He said there is room to invest more into New Mexico but that there are no plans yet outside of finishing the fulfillment center in Los Lunas.

“When we start to evaluate where customer demand is coming from, we want to be able to service them as quickly as possible,” Bailey said. “And so, with New Mexico, we’ve validated this as a strong market for customers, and the sites that we choose connect us to our customers and logistics supply chain so we can do that in an efficient manner.”

The company currently has a fulfillment center, sortation center and delivery center on Albuquerque’s West Side and is planning another 1 million-square-foot facility in Los Lunas.

Bailey told the Journal that the new fulfillment center south of Albuquerque will employ about 600 workers when all is said and done. He declined to comment on a launch date for the new facility and said Amazon has yet to hire employees for it but said that supply chain issues have affected the timeline of the build-out.

The fulfillment center in Los Lunas will deal with non-sortable items – typically larger products such as televisions.

Asked if Amazon sees any opportunities for expansion in New Mexico, Bailey said “our great experience in New Mexico allows us to see future opportunities.”

Benefits for employees

While hiring has been a challenge for many New Mexico employers, Bailey said Amazon has had no trouble bringing on local workers.

Amazon, whose goal is to be the most “employee-friendly” company, offers up a variety of incentives to its workforce, including benefits for its full-time employees, Amazon officials said, on top of pay that starts at $15.50 for entry-level positions.

The West Side facility offers a wellness center for employees, helping them maintain a healthy life in and outside of work.

The facility includes vending machines that have items such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, Tums and cough drops – all available free of charge with a swipe of an employee badge. And, if an employee forgets their vest for work, well, they can get one from a vending machine, too.

Amazon says it offers paid maternity and paternity leave and, as of last September, began offering employees who have stayed with the company more than 90 days a full-ride scholarship to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

“That benefit is not a reimbursement. … It’s Amazon paying with you as you go to ensure that you’re not taking on that financial burden,” Bailey said. “Some may see that as a fool’s errand. We see this as a great opportunity where we invest in résumé building (and) transferable job skills. Our hope is that they stay with us.”

Editor’s note: This story included an incorrect amount that Amazon has invested in New Mexico. The company has invested more than $250 million. This story has been updated.

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