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Amazon SMF5: Good thing we built that auto-sorter! by edicted

View this thread on steempeak.com
· @edicted ·
Amazon SMF5: Good thing we built that auto-sorter!
<sub><center>This is a random recycling center</center></sub>

## Another week completed at Amazon sort center.
This week I worked a lot more hours than I normally would.  I clocked out last night at 1:00 AM to end the week with 25 hours.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but try telling that to my rotator cuff.  At this point I'm trying to get a full-time job there just to avoid the manual labor.  It was nice while it lasted. 

# Full-on Drone work. 
Usually the job I pick is simply moving pallets from the drop-zone lanes to the outbound gates. I guarantee I walked at least 15 miles yesterday in the ~6 hours I was working. Half of that distance I spend towing a pallet behind me with a pallet-jack. 

I don't necessarily dislike the work.  I'm basically being paid to get physical activity, and I was easily able to leverage my job into losing 50 pounds and get back to my normal weight.  Also, it's very easy to zone out while I'm walking and think about crypto/blogging/programming stuff.  Two birds one stone in a way. 

# Hours
A normal shift is 4 hours, but there is a +/- one hour flex depending on how much work there is to do.  Under their own rules, they can't force the drones to work more than 5 hours at a time. Last night was actually a 3 hour sort, but I just kept working till the end of the wrap-down shift to boost my weekly paycheck to 25 hours.   Now that they are paying $18/h during the crisis my next paycheck on Friday (weekly) will be the highest it's ever been in the 30 odd months I've been working there. 

### In order to work more than 5 hours in a row you must sign a paper that waives your rights to a timely lunch.  
It's funny because signing this paper actually just gives you more options (the option to work 6 hours max instead of 5). Again, under their own corporate rules they can't force you to work more than 5 hours even if you sign the paper.  That doesn't stop associates from thinking they're losing something by signing it. I think it's a bit funny and ironic... being able to gain options by signing away your rights... oh wait... lol... 


# Other perks...
We can no call no show anytime we don't want to work.  We can also leave work at any time without permission or notice. UPT (unpaid time) is deducted from our balance if we do this.  If we run out of UPT hours we get fired.  Everyone starts with 30 hours and gets 20 more hours every quarter (3 months), so I'm actually about to pick up 20 more hours in a couple days.  I'll have 60 (maximum cap 80).  

However, during this crisis everyone is getting unlimited UPT and no one is getting penalized anything for skipping work or leaving early. Although I learned this fact from my girlfriend who read it online and I was just talking to two associates the other day that didn't realize this either and were asking me questions about when the shift ended.  Communication isn't great right now because we are skipping standup announcements to avoid big groups, but I also get the feeling they aren't exactly preaching this new policy from the rooftops. 

Another perk of SMF5 is that it's literally better than every other Amazon warehouse that I've read about.  There sure are a lot of horror stories online.  Facilities in other states seem to have a lot of problems.   

I would say our operations managers are way above average and no one is stressed out to meet quotas or avoid bathroom breaks or anything like that.  It's pretty chill most of the time, although HR was fear-mongering the other day talking about how they'd shut the place down if we didn't follow the whole 6-foot social distancing rule. I guess a dozen facilities testing positive for COVID-19 is putting them on edge. 


# Desperate times call for...
Normally I take as much time off as possible and try to focus my time on crypto as much as I can. I can still pay my bills working as little as 12 hours a week. However, now that working is a privilege and Bitcoin is insanely oversold, I figured I'd commit more effort to my (hopefully temporary) life of servitude.  

# Overtime
Overtime is temporarily double time instead of time and a half.  A lot of people are picking up double shifts and working the max 5 hours x2 just to get the 2 hours overtime.  Getting paid 12 hours for a 10 hour day isn't too bad during these trying times. Pretty funny considering I can pay bills off of 12 hours a week.  I could be working one day a week and taking 6 days off if I was so inclined. 

# Bitcoin
The market looks pretty weak right now.  Currently under the very flimsy $6k support.  MSM is talking about the bear market being over.  I've liquidated my position with the intent of reentering in 24-48 hours.  I can imagine a big dump coming, but I can't really imagine the opposite. Of course coming from me should should mean nothing... or everything considering I have a really good track record of being wrong about these short-term movements. Gamble gamble.  I still hold massive amounts of Steem/Hive comparatively to these fleeting trades. 


# Well, that was very off topic...
Like I said before, SMF5 just so happened to finish building an auto-sorter at the beginning of peak season (Christmas orders that come in during November and December).  Before the auto-sorter, I'd say we were using about 30%-40% of the warehouse space.  Now 100% of the warehouse is being utilized.  There is very little room to expand much further. 

I'd say we've got like a 50 foot tall ceiling in the place, and some of these belts go 75% up to the ceiling. [The warehouse already reminded me of a video game I was playing back in October 2018 (Factorio)](https://hive.blog/gaming/@edicted/sucked-into-the-black-hole-of-gaming).  Now that the auto-sorter is complete, it feels like Factorio 10 times over.  


# Logistics
I wish I could take pictures/videos of this thing, but doing so would almost certainly get me fired if my corporate superiors found out. I'll try to explain it the best I can. 

For starters, California has some pretty strict labor laws.  I believe Amazon was able to convince the state/town that this automation was a good thing because it "creates jobs".  We actually had to hire a bunch of people because the max volume of the facility went from 100k packages sorted a day to 500k.  

On that flip-side argument, Amazon just saved themselves having to set up 4 additional warehouses to pump out that much volume without the auto-sorter, which obviously would have been way more jobs than the ones this automation provided.  

In addition, the process is not fully automated.  Packages are manually loaded from truck trailers to inbound belts that lead to a place called...

# Semi-auto induct. 
At the semi-auto induct packages are then manually placed from the inbound belts to another belt that feeds into the auto-sorter.  I've only been up there one time (very recently) so I don't know exactly how it works, but I do know that it is a manned station, and I also know that it's a pretty boring job. 

Once packages are fed into the auto-sorter, each package gets its own little square platform that rotates around a track that spans all the way down the length of the warehouse and back again.  At the semi-auto induct locations, the track is curved and only has one level.  When the platforms travel across the length of the warehouse, there are two levels stacked on top of one another; the top moving west and the bottom moving back east. 

Once packages get onto the auto-sorter they move through this crazy looking box that has laser light shooting out of it from every angle. This device scans the packages so the auto-sorter knows where to dump them.  I've yet to even see how the platforms bump off the packages into their respective ramps, but there is this one totally Jerry-rigged area were compressed air blasts packages onto this random ramp leading back to the manual sorter. 


It looks like Amazon didn't build this thing themselves and have contracted out this JLL Facilities company to build and maintain it. These guys are always buzzing around fixing jams, re-calibrating the machine, and doing various other jobs related to the automation.  They even seem to have their own little workstation and breakroom in the back. 


I'd say the auto-sorter has 30-40 drop zones where packages just automatically fall into the correct respective gaylord (bulk-size corrugated box). Amazon wants scanners to target a scan rate of around 120 packages an hour (1 every 30 seconds) minimum.  They tried to raise it to 140 for a while but they finally gave up and bumped it back down. 

Therefore the fact that these packages are scanning/sorting everything automatically saves a lot of manual labor.  Once the gaylord fills up a "waterspider" will close the pallet out and print a label for it, and a stager like me would pick it up with a pallet-jack and bring it to the correct gate. From here the truck drivers pick it up and put it into their trailer, bringing all the pallets to the correct city. 

# Manual sorter. 
Another reason Amazon was able to get away with this automation is because they never got rid of the manual sort machine that we've been using since day one.  The auto-sorter is simply an addition to the manual sorter.  We use both.  

# LOL! 
I just typed in "amazon sort slide" on Google and found some pictures. 


# This is SMF5.  
I know this because I know Rick.  Good ol' Rick.  Everyone likes Rick. Must be an old pic because he's wearing an orange vest.  He's since been promoted to a full time position to the TOM team (Transportation/Operations/Management). Wrap that pallet! Waterspider! 


# This is the sort slide.
On the manual side of the building (south side) packages go from trailer to inbound belts to this slide where they are manually put onto one of four belts. Packages are marked with one of 6 letters.  

# A-B-C-D-E-G
Lanes C and D have their own belt.  C is directly east of the slide, and D directly west.  The longer belts get packages from 2 letters.  A & B are combined.  So are E & G.  A manual position called "pickoff" exists to slide B packages onto the correct lane, while a pickoff on the opposite side of the warehouse slides E packages to the correct fork.  

Packages that end up in the wrong lane are consolidated to a "wrong lane" pallet and re-dumped onto the inbound belt with a hydraulic lift that could probably crush a person.  The safeties in place only allow the cage to be operated if the door is closed. There's also a pretty gigantic industrial sized trash compactor that looks pretty dangerous in the back that no one but janitorial messes with. 


# Back to the auto-sorter
Not all packages are dropped into gaylords automatically.  Only small packages are dropped automatically. In addition to that, the auto-sorter drops bigger boxes onto one of ten lanes to be manually scanned to pallets.  It looks like the above picture, as the auto-sorter drops the packages down a corkscrew onto a ramp into the lane.  However, the above picture is not SMF5. It looks a little different, but you get the idea. 

# Gates
The south side of the building is now largely used for inbound unsorted trailers, while the north side is for outbound truck drivers.  Even after 30 months working here, I've never been in (or am I allowed) into the yard with the trailers.  I've only been out there once when a fire alarm went off and the strobe lights and alarms going off inside the building felt like we were under military attack (a bombing raid or maybe just a sweet rave, lol). Not sure how the logistics and security operate out there, but it's pretty strict.  You can't even get into the building without passing through gigantic turnstiles and a valid badge. 


# Yep. 
There are 35 gates on the south side of the building (100-135) and 35 gates to the north (200-235).  My main job is to take pallets to the correct gates for the truck drivers. Riveting, I know. 

# Still hiring. 
I've been seeing some white-vests around, which means people are getting hired.  Just yesterday I had to tell a group of 3 of them that the sort had ended.  They had no idea. Everything is pretty chaotic.  They've been shutter stepping shifts so that everyone isn't in the same place at one time.  This makes everything a bit more disorganized.  Safety first... lol. 

# I think that's about it. 
Who knew it was so simple yet so complicated just to sort some packages. 

# Conclusion
Rumors are the auto-sorter cost 37 million dollars.  
What luck that they got it installed just in time to be an "essential service". 
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@tarazkp ·
I wish someone would pay me to lose weight.

Mindless jobs are great.
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@practicalthought ·
In my neck of the woods they use manual sorters. I was one very briefly during the holiday season. Their quotas are inhuman. I was the best from my hire group, due to the insane quota my regular job demands. It was still to much for me and quickly went back to my old job as I don't see how it's possible to manually sort their quota, especially when they demand a FIFO to the sort while expecting you to jump between 2-3 routes for sorting. I had to shake my head that they cared about the time sorted metric if it was all sorted at the end of the shift anyway. Just more stress for the already stressed sorter. 

Glad you were able to fit in on their requirements there.
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@edicted ·
Yeah I've heard the other facilities are stressful.  
SMF5 doesn't really have any of that. 
I've never seen or heard anyone talking about scan-rate. 
The 120 an hour is simply a target suggestion. 
There are no targets for any of the other jobs on site. 
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