The facility is the size of 28 football fields. It's 1 million square feet full of almost anything an Amazon customer could want. As a tour guest, you never know what products you might see in the yellow totes that whir past on conveyor belts. From an Alexa-enabled device to a miniature Zamboni machine, there's everything from A to Z. You walk through "pick mods," where the customer order selection process takes place. You stop at "packing" areas and watch associates at ergonomic workstations prepare orders for shipment. And throughout the tour, you see the innovative technology that makes what seems like magic happen every step of the way.
Amazon has offered public tours of its fulfillment centers (FCs) since 2014 in facilities across North America and Europe. Last year was the tour program's biggest year yet, with more than 320,000 people in nine countries visiting a site. The FC in Phoenix, named PHX6, hosted more people than any other Amazon building in North America with nearly 12,000 visitors.
2019 Amazon Tour Facts
- 12,350 public tours given
- Most popular month to take a tour: October
- Most popular tour locations: Madrid, Spain; Barcelona, Spain; Milan, Italy; Phoenix, Arizona; Tracy, California; and San Bernardino, California
Full-time tour guide B.J. Courchaine led many of the hour-long tours at PHX6. "Getting to meet people from the age of six all the way up to 96 is a very cool thing," he said.
Before he came to Amazon, Courchaine was a stand-up comedian and tour guide in Los Angeles. "Working for Amazon, it's kind of a full circle process. It incorporates all of my talents into one. It's definitely a good fit for me, and that's what makes me want to come to work."
Most guests' first reaction to seeing a fulfillment center is surprise at the massive scale, he said. Then it's appreciation as they see the teamwork from the hundreds of associates who make customer deliveries come together. At least one tour goer was so impressed with the work atmosphere at the Phoenix FC that he went home, applied for a job there, and now has been an Amazonian for almost four years.
Behind the Scenes at PHX6
- More than 2,000 full-time associates employed
- The FC opened in October 2010
- The building has 13,000 tons of steel/rebar/decking, which is enough to build two Eiffel Towers
- The first item ever shipped from the FC was a Roku AV Receiver Set
- The site has a dedicated classroom for associates to engage in the Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in in-demand fields, regardless of whether skills are relevant to a career at Amazon
Throughout the tour, Courchaine takes visitors on the journey of a customer order. He shares dozens of facts about the process, like at the packing area where shipping labels are affixed to the famous Amazon boxes. "This is what we call a SLAM machine, which is funny because that's my nickname when I used to wrestle in high school," joked Courchaine on a recent tour.
He went on to explain how the machine works and that SLAM stands for Scan/Label/Apply/Manifest. "Speaking of boxes, all of our cardboard is locally sourced, and we recycle all of the used boxes in the building," he said.
Sometimes, business teams from companies big and small, take the FC tour to learn the secrets of Amazon's success. But it's no secret that customer obsession is at the core of Amazon's innovation and progress. Employees are encouraged to start with the customer and work backwards to earn and keep customer trust. And that's true at FCs where tour guides take pride in delivering a great tour. "Customer obsession is real. They're still a customer in our eyes, and we want to do what we need to do to give them the best experience all around," Courchaine said.
Sometimes people even return to go on the tour a second time. Courchaine said they're intrigued by all the technology and like to come back and check out the latest innovations. If you want to see an Amazon Fulfillment Center for yourself, book now.