ARLINGTON — Deep inside the cavernous new Amazon fulfillment center in Arlington, bins carrying household basics flew by on conveyors and chutes.
Jeans, tissue boxes — even Funko Pop! figurines — are some of the items stored, packaged and shipped out of the 2.8-million-square-foot building. That’s about 64 acres, or bigger than 48 football fields.
Amazon cut the ribbon at its new facility Thursday, offering a tour of the building for media members, Amazon employees and politicians.
It is the largest Amazon Fulfillment Center in Washington state and cost $355 million to build. Fulfillment centers are where products are stored, packed and shipped out.
“It is an amazing, amazing facility,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a speech Thursday. “We’re so proud that it’s here.”
The Arlington facility officially opened in August. Amazon has emphasized it created more than 1,000 jobs with the project.
The inside of the facility is a maze of tracks, chutes and robots. Amazon uses robots to store product on moving shelves that go to a worker’s station. Using bar codes and scanners, products are pulled from shelves and put in bins. Other workers refill the shelf robots in a different part of the facility.
The bins then move around the facility, where they are eventually packaged in a staging area. The process is speedy, a marvel to watch in action, even if it’s the simplest act of moving an item from point A to point B.
“We have the latest technology, the software team, the team we need to make this building the best in the U.S.A.,” Arnal said. “That is very exciting.”
It’s loud in many parts of the facility, much of which is painted the cool gray and blue that has become a familiar color to millions.
The building is five stories tall. It took 21,000 tons of steel to construct. It has 52 dock doors.
The center has the capacity to hold 40 million “units” of inventory. That number is currently about 10 million, said Bruno Arnal, the building’s general manager.
Arnal highlighted the location as being convenient for customers, as it is close to the Seattle metro area. This will help cut delivery times on many items, he said.
“Maybe a year ago, when a customer in Arlington, Washington, would buy an item from Amazon.com, that item could come from as far away as California,” Arnal said.
About 76% of orders now come from customers in the region, he said.
Visitors started the tour with a safety briefing Thursday. Safety was mentioned throughout the tour and Arnal’s remarks during the ribbon cutting. Banners with safety tips, color-coded lines on the floor and reflective vests for every employee are standard.
Anyone in the facility is required to wear steel-toed shoes.
Amazon has been under fire for years for work safety. The company is the subject of 18 open federal investigations and has appealed citations with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Amazon warehouses in the state have been repeatedly cited by the state’s Department of Labor and Industries, as employees filed hundreds of claims for work-related musculoskeletal disorders due to the fast-paced repetitive work.
Arnal said Amazon has invested $550 million in “safety-related projects” over the last year.
“When you tour it, you will see the latest upgrades in research and development that lead to a better, safer workplace,” Arnal said.
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert approached Somers about a decade ago about designating a zone around the local airport as a regional growth center through the Puget Sound Regional Council, Somers said. In 2019, it was indeed given this designation, which opened the area up to federal money, Somers said.
It became the Cascade Industrial Complex, covering about 4,000 acres between Arlington and Marysville.
Officials from Arlington were in attendance at the event and toured the facility. Tolbert said she was proud to be opening up the facility.
“It’s important how your staff feels about where they work — how important they feel, passion to the mission you’re trying to provide,” she said. “You can feel that almost immediately when you visit a business. And in my tour of the facility … I felt that culture the minute I walked in the door.”