ROSSFORD — The 640,000 square feet of space inside the new Amazon Fulfillment Center is filling up and the 26 miles of conveyor belt has begun to move.
Palletized and shrink-wrapped items are arriving by the truckload on a daily basis.
More than 500 employees will be working and paying taxes in Rossford by April, and there will be more than 1,500 employees when the facility is completely up and running.
“Hiring is going really well,” said Amazon Operations Public Relations Specialist Andre Woodson. “We have $15 minimum pay per hour, plus comprehensive benefits, that start on day one.”
The facility is transforming Rossford and Wood County. The infrastructure being built to handle the facility is in continuous flux. There are roads have greater weight capacity, there are new traffic lights, water and sewer, and the electrical grid have all been adjusted and beefed up.
“This really all started when the NA Harmon Group identified Rossford’s geographical assets, being the interchange of I-75 and I-80,“ said Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon III. “Between the state, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Wood County, the Northwestern Water and Sewer District and the city, Rossford has been able to keep up with infrastructure demands in real time, with construction on roads, water and sewer, both ingress and egress.”
The NA Harmon Group moved in, building its own business park, with two new businesses coming in: A corrugated box company and a medical manufacturing company. MacKinnon said that between both, there will be several hundred new employees. NSG Glass is also expanding, with 150 new employees, in Troy Township, to supply the First Solar expansion, which is growing by 500 employees.
Everything is new, including the robots, computers and monitors.
“This is the 9th Generation fulfillment center. It’s the newest and state of the art,” Woodson said.
Changes began with the stocking concept. Computers are not limited by lines of sight. They catalog where an item is located with ones and zeros.
Comparing it to a traditional hardware store, Woodson said there is no need to put all the different sizes of carriage bolts together in the fastener section of the hardware area.
“We co-mingle into accessible bins,” Woodson said. “It optimizes our outbound control process. Machine learning and sophisticated algorithms with artificial intelligence keep this place running smoothly.”
Workers simply unpack items and put them in a yellow stocking bin. The robotic system puts the bin on a moving stock shelf. The computer system knows where that bin is located, and those bolts could sit next to pencils, a plush Mickey Mouse toy or shampoo. The computer will know where each item sits.
Stocking robots are about 6 feet tall and 4 feet to a side. They are on wheels and fully automated, controlled by artificial intelligence.
The merchandise stock area has a strange slow ballet of yellow moving shelves constantly dancing. Right now it’s all stocking. Soon, there will be items going out as quickly as they arrive.
“At peak time, items only sit here for minutes,” said Daniel Fox, an Amazon operations manager who recently moved to Perrysburg from Charlotte, North Carolina. He came to the U.S. two years ago, from England, where he spent 14 years working as a submariner in their Navy.
There are alarms and lights, movement and machinery sound. From people, to fork lifts, to the conveyor belts that move across the four floors, horizontally and at crazy angles, there are many things to look at.
“It’s pretty intriguing, some of this technology,” Fox said.
The facility is also clean.
With $4 billion in pandemic-related investment, the company is now pushing the envelope in new safety methods.
There are masks and hand sanitizer is available everywhere. Get too close to another person and you will be gently reminded by someone to move away and keep social distancing.
The are cameras helping to maintain social distancing. Each person has a green digital hula hoop 6-feet in diameter. It’s similar to the digital markers seen on a television broadcast of a football game. If your hula hoop crosses another person’s hoop, the colors change to red and you are asked to move away. It’s all obvious on the screen.
The modernization of life inside the plant covers everything. Some of it is low-tech, like the yellow caution tape for the continuing construction, to the plexiglass cubicles employees use for lunch in the break room. Some things, like the classic employee time-clock, are in the Cloud and found on each employee’s cell phone, much like the web-based storefront of Amazon that the new fulfillment center supports.