Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Have a look inside the 1-million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Ruskin

RECOMMENDED READING


RUSKIN — There's enough steel inside to build the Eiffel Tower — twice. If all the conveyor belts inside were laid out in a straight line, they would stretch farther than 10 miles. Hundreds of robots — including self driving vehicles — scoot around inside.

Amazon opened the doors to its 1.1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Ruskin Wednesday to celebrate the warehouse's grand opening more than a year and a half after its launch.

Reporters from media groups around the region, local government officials and Florida Gov. Rick Scott toured the facility, which is one of two fulfillment centers in the state. The other is in Lakeland.

Since the Ruskin Amazon facility opened on Sept. 17, 2014, it has more than doubled its workforce, from 1,000 full-time employees to more than 2,500, said Chris Monnot, the general manager. A renovation of the center, which is the size equivalent of more than 28 football fields, was completed in October. That project added new levels of work space, more conveyors and workstations, and made it larger in terms of cubic square footage than the Lakeland facility.

Lakeland employs 800 people. Amazon employs about 4,000 in the state.

"There are not a lot of places in Florida that add 2,500-plus jobs in a year and a half," said Scott.

The Ruskin center ships smaller items like electronics, kitchen appliances, books, DVDs and toys. It ships items all over the world, but mostly to destinations in the southeastern U.S., Monnot said.

The center is equipped with hundreds of robots, including self-driving cars that transport merchandise from one end of the warehouse to another.

 

The facility also has labeling machines and other robots that bring items directly to employees so they don't have to carry or haul heavy loads.

 

Florida's two centers are the most technologically advanced in the Amazon fleet of 11, Monnot said.

Unlike the Lakeland warehouse, Ruskin isn't equipped with "Robo-Stow," a 6-ton robotic arm that picks up and stacks pallets of merchandise. Amazon officials say it's the largest robot in the world and is about the size of an adult African elephant. It's used in Lakeland to lift and store heavier or odd-sized items like a kayak or TV.

Small businesses can enroll to be a part of the "fulfillment by Amazon" program, where businesses store their inventory at Amazon and workers pack and ship orders for that business from the Ruskin facility.

Monnot said there are several small businesses in the region that participate in the program but declined to say who they were.

Otherwise the fulfillment centers in Ruskin and Lakeland look almost exactly the same. Phrases like "Dive deep" and "have a backbone" are plastered across the walls of break rooms. "Work hard. Have fun. Make history" is etched over the main exit of the building. Employees pass through metal detectors on their way in and out of work. Cell phones aren't allowed on the warehouse floor.

Amazon workers, who officials say make more money than a typical retail worker, mostly work full time. Shifts are 10 hours, four days a week. During peak season before the winter holidays, the Ruskin facility had nearly 4,000 part-time and full-time workers, Monnot said.

Amazon will pre-pay 95 percent of tuition for employees who take college courses, regardless of whether the field is relevant to Amazon jobs. On Wednesday the company announced it would build an on-site classroom where employees could take online courses from local community colleges. Amazon plans to work with several local colleges in the area, though the plans haven't been finished, Monnot said.

Monnot, who was once the general manager of the Lakeland fulfillment center, was promoted when Brian Owens, the former Ruskin general manager, was promoted to be regional director. Owens oversees the fulfillment centers in Florida and some in Texas.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin on Twitter.

Comments
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s ...
Published: 11/21/17
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPA — It’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E. Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door...
Published: 11/21/17
Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Pinellas County home sales took another hurricane-related hit in October as the rest of the Tampa Bay area bounced back from Hurricane Irma.But while prices in all four counties rose once again, the rate of increase continues to slow. Hillsborough’s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Updated: 6 hours ago