July 19, 2019

Amazon: How supply chain decisions impact the front line

A seven-strong team from Techmodal undertook the arduous journey from our Bristol HQ up to Amazon’s BHX4 fulfillment center near Coventry this week to take a tour of the facility. This 400,000sq ft base is one of Amazon’s smallest fulfillment centers (they expand up to 2.5 million square feet!) however the sheer scale of this base, which can house up to 3000 employees at any one time, was still massively impressive and provided a valuable insight in to how the supply chain decisions we facilitate impact the front line.

The team selected to attend the tour was made up of our young consultants and analysts who the company wanted to equip with first-hand knowledge of how a kaizen philosophy can drive an organisation to become amongst the world’s most effective logistics operations. Among the various outputs of this mindset observed was the case of the light-up pallet. This development assists the pickers who are unpacking the deliveries in the fulfillment center ensure that they place the item in the correct pallet by using colored LED lights to light up the correct pallet to improve the accuracy of the pickers’ work.

This example is one of many cases where Amazon have harnessed the power of data to drive business decisions and to measure the ROI of technological developments. Data analysis revealed that, especially towards the end of picker’s shifts, the accuracy of staff in placing items in the correct pallet wasn’t reaching target levels and therefore, there was a valid business case for technology to assist this process. This same analysis exercise revealed that an even greater drop off in staff performance could be seen when incoming packages consisted high numbers of smaller items so at BHX4 they are currently trialing an automated sorting device for the smallest items to drive business performance.

These are just two of numerous examples observed during the tour of where Amazon are harnessing the power of data to facilitate decision making and to improve their already world-class operations. Having the opportunity to observe this firsthand is something all the team enjoyed and are looking forward to taking the learnings back to their teams and to the various projects that they are working on.