Customers rely on Amazon for fast delivery of just about anything they need. To some, it might seem like a miracle when a box with the familiar Amazon smile arrives at their doorsteps, but associates behind the scenes know there's science and great service behind each delivery.

For more than five years, Amazon has invited customers into its warehouses, known as Amazon fulfillment centers, to see what happens after they click the "buy now" button. Craig McCormick was one of those customers. He had no idea when he went on a tour in 2016 of a Phoenix fulfillment center that it would be a life-changing experience.

McCormick admits his expectations of the tour weren't very high. He assumed he and his wife would see an old-school warehouse. In his words, "dark, boring, and cold." To his surprise, "it was lit up and interactive."

"The employees were having fun," he said. "Everybody pretty much had a smile on their face. Packers were able to communicate with each other, managers were engaging with associates, Human Resources and safety reps were on the floor. It was really cool."

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At any given time there can be over 14 million items in a fulfillment center. If we gave away every item in this building, we could give 10 items to every resident in Phoenix and still have some items left over.
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One of the most distinct images inside an Amazon fulfillment center is the yellow tote. The Phoenix FC uses over 40,000 yellow totes.
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All of our cardboard used for Amazon boxes is locally sourced, and all of the used boxes in the building are recycled.
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Photo by JORDAN STEAD/JORDAN STEAD
Our parental leave benefits for FC associates offer up to 20 weeks of paid leave, a flexible Ramp Back Program, and our Leave Share Program that allows employees the ability to share their paid leave with their spouse or partner.
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We love to empower our employees to think differently and create change if there is something they think could be done more efficiently or safer. Much of the technology at work in this fulfillment center has improved in part by feedback from our employees through conversations, Voice of Associate board contributions, floor inspections by leadership, and meetings with managers, among other channels.
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Photo by JORDAN STEAD/JORDAN STEAD
In the packing area, we print the shipping labels and place them on the outside of the packages. In some of our pack lines, this is a manual process. And in others, we use a machine like this one to print and apply the shipping labels to the outside of the packages.

McCormick was also surprised when the tour leader shared that Amazon is a leading U.S. retailer in pay and benefits, and fulfillment centers are full of opportunities to grow and develop within the company. Although he enjoyed his eight years as a chef, McCormick began to notice similarities between his career in restaurants and the work he saw in the warehouse—a fast-paced environment, emphasis on time management, and the commitment to safety. But there was one difference, "I actually wanted that ability to move up. As a chef you have to move locations quite often; I wanted to stick with a company and work my way up."

After the Amazon tour, he made a decision. "This is where I'm going to go."

McCormick went home and applied for an associate role at the fulfillment center. In just a couple months, he was offered a full-time job as an inventory quality control associate at PHX6—the same facility where he took the tour. A month later, he transferred to the packing area.

“I love the fact that I get to be here, be part of the team, making Amazon history. ”
Craig McCormick, area manager, Amazon fulfillment center

During the next two and a half years, he took advantage of the various Amazon programs that offer training for higher-skilled roles, learning as much as he could about the different departments. He was also able to be a part of creating new ways to get customer orders to them faster.

"I love the fact that I get to be here, be part of the team, making Amazon history," said McCormick.

McCormick was recently promoted to an area manager role, overseeing dozens of associates. "I see a future for myself at Amazon," he said. And while most FC tour participants don't end up working there, he encourages everyone to take a tour. "It's always cool to go see behind the scenes and experience what actually is happening."

There are 23 fulfillment centers in the United States and Canada that offer public tours. Go to amazon.com/fctours for more info.