Amazon confirms new fulfillment center in Hollister

A new road is under construction leading to a building rising up in the distance that will be the latest Amazon fulfillment center. Photo by John Chadwell.

For those who have been wondering about what was going on north of the Hollister Municipal Airport with all the blue tarps and 9,000 pilings driven 50 feet into the ground that will eventually support a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment facility, the wait is over.

Today, Amazon answered BenitoLink’s repeated requests to verify that the new building will be its latest venture in San Benito County. BenitoLink also requested the former city manager Brett Miller to reveal the tenant of the fulfillment center but never responded. A planning department staff member recently told this reporter the city was under a nondisclosure agreement for that project.

“We’re looking forward to opening a new facility in the city of Hollister, which has been a great partner on this project from the start,” responded Alisa Carroll, an Amazon public relations manager. “While we don’t have a specific launch date to share right now, once we have a better sense of timing, we’ll look to begin hiring for hundreds of good-paying jobs for the region.”

Driving by the location that has been mysteriously referred to as Project Almond located on 73 acres in the planned Clearist Industrial Park, the pace of construction has picked up recently as bulldozers and dump trucks are working on a road leading from the site where one wall was hoisted up a few days ago near San Felipe Road.

Carroll was not able to answer BenitoLink’s questions as to the actual function of the fulfillment center. According to Amazon, though, there are six distinct types of fulfillment centers:

Sortable fulfillment center
Around 800,000 square feet in size, sortable fulfillment centers can employ more than 1,500 full-time associates. In these buildings, Amazon employees pick, pack and ship customer orders such as books, toys and housewares. It adds robots associates often work alongside robots, allowing them to learn new skills and helping create a more efficient process to meet customer demand.

Non-sortable fulfillment center
Ranging in size from 600,000 to 1 million square feet, non-sortable fulfillment centers employ more than 1,000 full-time associates. In these centers, associates pick, pack and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment and rugs.

Sortation centers
At sortation centers, associates sort customer orders by final destination and consolidate them onto trucks for faster delivery. Amazon’s website states this sort center network provides full- and part-time career opportunities and is powering its ability to provide customers with everyday delivery, including Sunday delivery.

Receive centers
Amazon’s receive centers support customer fulfillment by taking in large orders of the types of inventory that it expects to quickly sell and allocating it to fulfillment centers within the network. Full- and part-time roles are available in these buildings, which are about 600,000 square feet in size.

Amazon’s fulfillment network is also supported by additional types of buildings that handle specific categories of items or are pressed into service at peak times of the year such as the holiday season. Many of these buildings feature part-time opportunities with the option to convert to full-time.

Delivery stations
In these buildings, customer orders are prepared for last-mile delivery to customers. Amazon delivery providers enable every day shipping.

Amazon has been operating a delivery station in Hollister since September 2021.

Because of the square footage and the described use of distributing furniture and appliances, the new building will most likely fall into the non-sortable category.

The Planning Commission resolution that approved the project states it will provide an e-commerce fulfillment center and distribution facility. It will operate with approximately 449 employees, including 275 employees during the day shift and 174 employees during the night shift. During the day shift there would be 16 office workers, 169 warehouse workers, 10 security personnel and 80 drivers. During the night shift, there would be 15 office workers, 150 warehouse workers, and nine security personnel.

Robot working at an Amazon fulfillment center. Photo courtesy of Amazon.
A robot working at an Amazon fulfillment center. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

If Hollister’s newest facility follows similar Amazon facilities, robots will play an important role. According to Amazon, it has 175 fulfillment centers around the world; 26 have humans and robots working side by side.

“In addition, robotic animation benefits employees, as they take over performance of fulfillment centers’ less desirable, more tedious tasks,” the Amazon website states.

As described by Amazon, one type of robotics or bots are flat, wheeled, 300-pound machines that glide across facility floors, moving small bins and large pallets of products to associates. Other bots called palletizers “provide robotic muscle for the operation” as they identify and lift boxes from conveyor belts before stacking them on pallets for stowage or shipping. Then the six-ton robo-stows are used to lift even heavier items.

Robot stow. Photo courtesy of Amazon.
Robot stow. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

“Used to expedite the inbound process once truckloads of inventory reach the centers, the robo-stows that are currently employed lift pallets of inventory up to drive units on higher floors within fulfillment centers,” according to Amazon.

There are, though, some claims that robots and humans don’t always get along and there have been injuries.

According to a BBC report based on a study conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting which claims to have acquired internal records for 150 warehouses over four years, “At the most common kind of Amazon ‘fulfillment center,’ serious injuries are 50% higher for those that have robots than those without.”

According to a Reveal News report, after Amazon debuted the robots in Tracy the serious injury rate there nearly quadrupled, going from 2.9 per 100 workers in 2015 to 11.3 in 2018, records show.

The report said Jonathan Meador watched the transition from his position loading boxes into big rig trailers. The article stated the robots at the Tracy warehouse were so efficient that humans could barely keep up and the pickers and packers were expected to move more products every minute, and more boxes shot down the conveyor belt toward Meador.

“Before robots, it was still tough, but it was manageable,” he said. Afterward, “we were in a fight that we just can’t win.”

As for replacing human workers, in a 2019 Reuters story, Scott Anderson, director of Amazon Robotics Fulfillment, said technology is at least 10 years away from fully automating the processing of a single order picked by a worker inside a warehouse. He also said the technology for a robot to pick a single product from a bin without damaging other products or picking multiple products at the same time in a way that could benefit the e-commerce retailer is years away.

Related BenitoLink stories

Amazon delivery hub opens in Hollister | BenitoLink

Amazon opening Hollister delivery facility Sept. 28 | BenitoLink

Hollister fast-tracked Amazon development without public input | BenitoLink

Tenant of jumbo fulfillment center still not revealed | BenitoLink

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