When Amazon recently started inviting the general public to tour its fulfilment centers I managed to convince my wife it would make a great day out. She fell into my trap and off we went to Amazon’s largest European FC, based in Tilbury, UK.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.
So, what did I discover? Firstly, most of the available dates and times were already full so plenty of people are taking the tours. Secondly, our group covered a wide age range, from school children to pensioners and everyone in between. It looks like significant numbers of people, from all walks of life, are genuinely interested to discover the inner workings of the companies they buy from. That must be a good thing.
The facility was as expected, a cavernous building with tasks shared via a web of people, robots, automation and software. Nothing seemed rushed.
From a supply chain perspective I learned that the secret to success is knowing what a product looks like, where it originated, where it is now, where it needs to be next and when it should arrive. Provided all this is known and embedded in a bar code, a product can enter a distribution ‘matrix’ and be expected to emerge where and when required.
To be honest, given that the first phase of my engineering career revolved around factory automation and my current phase involves researching and writing about distribution, I kind of knew this anyway. However, it’s always useful to be reminded firsthand and it’s always interesting to witness each distributor’s take on the process.
So where next? The ability of distribution facilities to learn is my guess. Fortuitously, this is exactly what John Denlinger has written about, click to read on.