Biz Beat

Amazon getting ready for Prime Day, holiday rush

I got to meet Armazon recently. As my colleague Erin Tracy wrote last year, Armazon is a pretty big fella, weighing in at 6 tons and moving pallets up to 24 feet high.

Armazon is the nickname given to the “Robo-Stow” machine at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Patterson. He’s been plenty busy lately, with the Internet giant’s second annual Prime Day approaching on Tuesday.

Prime Day is Amazon’s own version of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Instituted last year, the event features more than 100,000 deals “exclusively for Prime members, making it the biggest Amazon event ever,” the company said in a news release.

Prime members pay an annual fee for perks that include free two-day shipping on most items and access to sales such as these.

“We are typically not this filled up,” Amazon regional spokeswoman Ashley Robinson said last week, pointing to stacks of items toward the front of the 1 million-square-foot Patterson center.

Robinson showed us around the center, pointing out nifty technology such as driverless carts and robotic racks that deliver items for orders to stations where they are pulled and sent for packing. The automated racks hustle and bustle around, giving the place a kind of Jetsons look. QR codes on the floor tell the racks where to go and keep them from bumping into one another. One machine even makes special-sized boxes for odd-shaped items, such as guitars. The idea is to keep waste to a minimum, Robinson said.

In older distribution centers, there is less automation. “It’s almost like a library,” Robinson said. “People will go down the aisles with a hand scanner and a cart.” Employees select items for an order and then bring them to a station to be boxed up and then shipped out.

Even at newer distribution centers like the one in Patterson, it takes people to run those machines. Robinson said the Patterson center employs roughly 850 people full time. And though it’s only July, the company has started ramping up for the holiday season.

“The people are the symphony, to put it poetically,” Robinson said. Though the big holiday hiring push occurs in the fall, the company is hiring – both full-time and seasonal positions – now.

“We do a lot of training,” Robinson said. Getting people on board now ensures they will be fully up to speed by the time the orders start flying in for the holidays.

In addition to hiring in Patterson, Amazon continues a big expansion in Tracy we reported earlier this year. Robinson said the company doesn’t have anything else to announce yet, but more expansion could be in the offing in Northern California.

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Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

Folks in Ceres soon will have more shopping and dining options, with two new businesses opening soon along the busy Hatch Road corridor.

Togo’s West Coast Original Sandwiches will celebrate a grand opening Tuesday at its new location in the Ceres Plaza Shopping Center. According to a news release, the day will include a local fundraiser, ribbon cutting and customer giveaways. It’s the first Togo’s in Ceres.

In the same neighborhood, Ross will open its new store. Judging by my email – I have had several questions from readers about it – the discount clothing store will attract a lot of shoppers when it opens Saturday. It seems that the interest is pretty widespread; when I looked at the Ross website I found that the company has scheduled grand openings for 24 new stores across the country on the same day.

The Ceres Ross will be open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Call 209-531-9614.

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