Amazon has 80 of these distribution centres around the world and all of them work the old fashioned way with pure man power, rather than being automated with robots. Also they do not have the items organised into a proper order, they are all placed randomly and the workers just use barcodes to find them!
The company doesn’t yet have its figures from 2012 yet, but in 2010, Amazon.com sold more than 13 million individual items within 24 hours, and that number ballooned last year to 17 million. Amazon expects this year to be its biggest yet.
“It gets very busy at this time, and folks work hard for sure, but again, we bring in help,” said Craig Berman, corporate vice president at Amazon. “We’re hiring 50,000 seasonal employees to help meet that demand, and we’re excited.”
Amazon must rely on barcodes and human hands to find the ordered items and drop them into the proper bins — without robots, Amazon utilizes a system known as “chaotic storage,” where products are essentially shelved at random.
By storing items randomly instead of categorically, the warehouse has a much better flow of material. Even without robots or automation, Amazon can compile a “picking list” that locates where each item needs to be taken off the shelf and scanned again before it can be shipped.
The real advantage to chaotic storage is that it’s significantly more flexible than conventional storage systems. If there are big changes in a product range, the company doesn’t need to plan for more space, because the products or their sales volumes don’t need to be known or planned in advance if they’re simply being stored at random.
Furthermore, free space is much better utilized in a chaotic storage system. In a conventional system, free space may go unused for quite a while simply because stock is low or there aren’t enough products to begin with. Without any kind of fixed positions, available shelf space is always being used.