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Amazon offers peek inside North Randall fulfillment center

Massive facility relies on employees and robots working together

NORTH RANDALL, Ohio — Amazon opened the doors of its high-tech fulfillment center to public officials and media on Thursday for the first time since the facility, located at Emery and Northfield roads, opened last September. 

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It’s one six Amazon sorting centers in Ohio.  

Amazon officials described the event as its official grand opening and announced a $20,000 donation to the Warrensville Heights City Schools to support science and math programs. Local mayors and U.S. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge attended the event. She praised Amazon and urged the school children on hand to look beyond the manual work in the warehouse.

“I hope you find something on that floor that will engage you and make you know you can do this. Robotics are really very simple,” she said.

The giant warehouse covers 14 football fields and is at site of the old Randall Park Mall. Amazon relies on a choreographed dance of machines to store, retrieve and sort 10 million items in the building, which is the size of 14 football fields.

But it’s the hundreds of employees during each shift working nonstop that drive the operation, grabbing items from the robots and placing them into bins, which then travel along highways of belts and roller chutes. (Amazon said there is enough steel inside the center to build the Eiffel Tower twice. And that if the belts and chutes were placed in a straight line, they would stretch 10 miles.) 

Employees, who are paid $15 an hour and up, quickly grab toys, electronics and beauty products and place them in boxes, which then head to Northeast Ohio homes and beyond.

Two thousand full-time employees work in this virtual mall that replaced the once proud Randall Mall, which closed more than a decade ago.

Amazon officials didn’t want to talk about the pace at which employees have to work to keep up with the machines and the orders. But Amazon North Randall General Manager Mark Huber said the machines haven’t replaced employees but made their jobs safer and easier.

“The robots for instance will bring the product to the associate to eliminate the need for the associate to walk through the warehouse to find the product – that’s always been the focus of the technology,” he said.

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