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Touring Amazon's
SMF-1 Fulfillment Center

Amazon tour guide snaps phots of tour group outside SMF-1 Fullfillment Center in Sacramanto.

This afternoon, I toured 155,000 square foot Amazon's SMF-1 Fulfillment Center in Sacramento. The facility is quite amazing and shows off much of the cutting edge technology and efficiency that Amazon is known for.

This center, like many of Amazon's fulfillment centers, is located near an airport—Sacramento's SMF, hence its designation. Roughly 2,000 people work there, on two ten-hour shifts plus four hours of maintenance to restock shipping supplies and undergo maintenance. Around the world, it has about 650,000 employees.

According to our tour guide, the SMF-1 facility is about a mile long—but then again, few people have to hoof that distance. Mostly, pickers and packers work out of gated cubical where most items come and go pretty much automatically. The SMF-1 facility currently handles. about 4 million separate types of items

The centerpiece of this automation is the Amazon Robot. No, the robot isn't human-like—in fact it looks a lot like the Roomba floor cleaning robot. If I had to guess, I'd say it was about 30 inches long by 24 inches wide by about a foot high.

The Amazon Robot has one purpose—it positions itself under a tower-pod—a multi-shelf moveable cabinet—and rapidly moves the pod from pickers to packers.

In some manner that seems generally unfamiliar to me, it seems that as soon as materials are offloaded from trailers, the material is somewhat randomly placed into a cubby in a tower-pod. Then, whenever called upon, the pod is ready to deliver the item to a packer—no stocked inventory and an ordered item can go from an incoming trailer from its vendors to an outgoing trailer to its customers in an hour.

Picker and packer stations are arranged with monitors that tell the employee what to get, where it is located and where it is going. Typical pickers seemed to locate items and send them to outbound totes in under ten seconds.







The guide said that line workers make between $15.50 and $18.50 plus significant benefits which include tuition reimbursement. According to our guide, Amazon wants to encourage its employees to get some college—even if it is in a field far removed from its work—say dental hygienist.

One thing that is at first off-putting is the degree of security—it's probably more secure than most airports. The main entrance sports an array of turnstiles of the type I remember using when I exited from New York Subways. The type with the steel fingers that only turned in one direction. Employees used ID cards to enter. Visitors had to show an appropriate form of identification.

All-in-all Amazon is an Amazing company. It started 25 years ago as an online bookseller and is now one of the largest companies in the world—with electronics, software, video games, apparel, furniture, food, toys, jewelry, food, media, publishing and web services.

The SMF-1 Center is located at: 4900 W. Elkhorn Blvd., Sacramento, California.

~ Al Zagofsky

After the visit, a friend asked me, "So how come Amazon doesn't pay any taxes?"

Well, that seems to be true—at least for the last two years. Before that, they paid taxes.

But, it seems that, according to CNBC, not only did Amazon pay no taxes but they received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government. The reasons are:

  1. carry-forward losses from previous years when the company was not profitable.
  2. tax credits for massive investments in R&D
  3. stock-based employee compensation, and
  4. Trump's tax cuts

Was this unusual? Nope. Sixty of the Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes. These include: Chevron, Delta Airlines, Eli Lilly, General Motors, Gannett, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Halliburton, IBM, Jetblue Airways, US Steel, and Whirlpool.








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