You probably already know that I love taking my kids on field trips. A couple of years ago a friend of mine toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center with her children. Immediately I knew: I needed this in my life. (Many people feel that way about things, I feel that way about experiences.) At that time the nearest AFC tour was in Indiana. Too far! How was that even possible? DFW seems like such a hub of Amazon activity.
Fortunately when I checked back this summer I found they had added a DFW location to their facilities offering tours. What luck!
Tours are free, but they can only accommodate a small number of people at a time. Reservations fill up quickly but after one or two misses I was able to get a spot before the summer was over. (There are no weekend tours so if I wanted my kids to come along summer was my only option.)
The tour directors were personable and gregarious, carefully explaining everything and taking time for questions. The time passed so quickly that when it was over neither my children nor I could believe the hour was up.
Nearly two decades ago I worked for a temp agency in rural Virginia. As part of my employment there I did a stint at a carpet square factory. The lighting was poor, the ambiance worse. I was grateful for the insight it provided into the daily life of so many people in the US and around the world. It was also helpful as I later secured a teaching position so I could better understand the families whose children I taught.
I was also grateful that my position only lasted a week.
Fast forward 15 years. How delightful: the AFC appeared to be such a pleasant place to work. The corporate culture focused as much on the experience of the employees as the experience of the customer. Since my experience as a [very short term] factory worker I’ve toured the Rouge Factory in Detroit as well as several other production facilities. I do believe that factories open for public tours will be nicer than their closed-to-the-public counterparts for the simple fact that sunshine makes a great antiseptic. But I am also aware that some company are just better employers than others.
Frankly I was surprised the human element at Amazon was as prominent as it was given the presence of the robots.
The robots. Let me tell you the robots completely captivated me. I was unprepared for their level of autonomy, despite having a robot vacuum at home. I can’t go into detail because I lack the words to describe the coolness of their form and function. Perhaps I can leave it like this: if the revolution comes in my lifetime, I will welcome our robotic overlords.
Photography and other recording is strictly prohibited. Understandably so. However they do recognize our modern need for selfies. (–and if someone at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing could please take note, I’d love to see something like this there as well–) Right at the end of the tour there is one photo op. Our tour guides were happy to take our photo with our device.
And then just like that the tour was over and we were back into the blazing Texas sun; our minds marveling at the spirit of innovation we had witnessed. It was a miracle we arranged the tour for the date we did. We moved away shortly thereafter.