This is the Amazon warehouse that will speed thousands of packages to Londoners on Black Friday – As big as 10 football pitches, operating 24 hours a day, with more than 2,000 workers continually working.
“Fulfilment Centre” in Hemel Hempstead of Amazon, look like nothing so much as the huge warehouse seen at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
In the UK, it is one of 10 such shopping sites now gearing up for what the firm expects to be its demanding ever pre-Christmas sales happening.
Last year Amazon sold 5.5 million items across Britain on Black Friday, with the peak arriving at 8.29am, at a rate of 64 per second. Extra staff have been hired, this year at the Hemel Hempstead site to pick, pack and dispatch thousands of parcels each hour.
The warehouse deals with small to medium-sized items, such as games, toys and computer. Order pickers walk the aisles with trolleys, skimming products on shelves. These are packed, put on conveyor belts, labelled and made ready for dispatch.
“We dispatch out thousands of products every hour, on the hour. We suppose this Black Friday to be our largest deals event yet, with double the amount of deals this year related to last year, said the General manager Henry Low, 41.
“We’ve organised for months. Customers love the idea they’re able to get deals in early and save money in time for Christmas.”
In August the New York Times raised questions about staff welfare. Amazon has denied it GPS-tracked staff movements. In 2013 an undercover reporter for BBC Panorama in Swansea filmed himself walking up to 11 miles a shift, picking a product every 33 seconds.
Staff work 10-hour shifts, four days a week. Mr Low would not reveal targets set for product-pickers, saying it is subject to the product, but he insisted they were “attainable”.
But Mr Low said: “I recognise it’s not the Amazon. If we treat people in that way, people will leave. Look around you, we’re super-customer obsessed my team. We are super-pumped up.
“We work hard, have fun and make history. We care about our associates deeply in terms of wellbeing and health. There’s a fair amount of manual work. We explain it to employees before they join and find that many enjoy this physical activity.”