We started our fall work camping job, at Amazon, in Campbellsville, KY on September 30. This is our 2nd year at Amazon (you can search through our September – December 2013 blogs if you want to read more on our first year, or on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail). This year they changed the first week format a little, as we started on a Tuesday, with orientation and safety school. We worked 5 hour shifts Wednesday thru Friday, in your assigned department. Saturday was an off day for everyone that started that week. Week two you go to your regular work days, but only 5 hour shifts again, for “work hardening”.
We are group number 6 (they start a new group each week, until November 14th) and had about 35 people in our group, only 3 of us assigned to first shift picking. Here is a photo of our group:
We asked for, and received, the same shift/department as last year. “A” shift, which is Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from 6:30am – 5:00pm, with a 30 minute lunch break. We will be Pickers again.
A little history about Amazon and Campbellsville, KY
The warehouse, or Fulfillment Facility as Amazon calls the building, is one of the 5 oldest facilities. It was originally a Fruit of the Loom factory, and when they relocated to another country, it caused massive unemployment in this small community. Amazon bought the facility in 1999, and just celebrated 15 years in this location. Many of the employees that started with them, are still here.
And if you think back to 1999, how many of you were ordering items from Amazon? They were mostly selling books back then, and now they sell just about everything. As Amazon has grown, they have used all the space in this building, which makes for some challenges when picking items. Things do not go in alphabetical or numeric order, like they would in a newer facility. And even this year, they have added even more shelves in some areas.
Work camper positions at Amazon
Amazon divides up their positions into Inbound and Outbound areas. Inbound is Receiving and Stowing, outbound is Picking and Packing. There is also ICQA, which is the quality control department. There are other jobs in these areas that they may transfer you to when needed. Dan and I both did ICQA a few days last year (very hard on the knees), and Dan was in transship in the mornings a few times, which he enjoyed. I was in gift wrap for one afternoon, which was horrible! Amazon has very high standards for how a package should be wrapped, and no matter how hard I tried, my packages looked rumpled. No matter where you are, the jobs are physical. They run two shifts, 10 hours each.
In simple terms, Receiving unloads trucks and puts the merchandise on carts. Stowers take the carts of merchandise and put it on the shelves. There is no pattern to where the items go.
Pickers have a cart and a scanner, and go pick the items off the shelf, put them in a tote, and on to a conveyor belt. The totes go to the various Packing departments, where they are sorted, boxed up, and sent on to be loaded on to the trucks. Everything is bar-coded, and no customer information is ever displayed.
When you interview with Amazon, they make no secret of how strenuous the positions are. Many workcampers have said this is the hardest job they have ever done. We both agree with that, and add that Picking is also the most boring job we have ever had. But here we are for our 2nd year! Why?
As the title of our blog implies, this is our 12 week fitness program. Last year Dan lost 28 pounds and I lost 8 pounds, in 12 weeks, even with greatly increasing the amount of food we consumed. Some people pay to join a gym, we have Amazon pay us to walk, and walk, and walk.
We enjoy Picking because you are left on your own to work. It’s just you and your scanner (which we occasionally yell at!). On average, you can walk about 10 miles plus a day in Picking. There are 4 floors (Pick mods) in three buildings so you will be walking up and down the stairs as well. Items are in bins, and your scanner will tell you where to go, what item is needed, and the quantity. Some days you will spend an hour or two in the same area (pick mod), and other times you will be moving all over between the buildings.
All workcampers have to meet production standards. They expect the workcampers to perform at 85% of what the regular full time employees do. In Picking, this means if an employee should be picking 100 items per hour, we need to be picking 85 items. All workcampers are expected to be at 100% for quality. If a customer orders a red, medium shirt, you need to pick a red, medium shirt. If you don’t, your scanner will beep at you. Quality is very important, as every customer service is very important to Amazon.
Quote of the day: “There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery.” – Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com)