Is it truth or myth? Does Amazon deliver within the hour if you want it that quick? True. Can Amazon deliver your babies’ new...

Is it truth or myth? Does Amazon deliver within the hour if you want it that quick? True.

Can Amazon deliver your babies’ new shoes by drone? Eventually. The team at Amazon is currently working on a system that will allow for drone delivery.

But while some people think of one-hour delivery as myth; it is far from it. Amazon’s Chester Fulfillment Center is part of the reason that area residents can get their Amazon purchases quickly.

Employing over 3,300, the tenth largest employer in the region, the Meadowville Technology Park facility, products are moved from incoming to outgoing efficiently using a combination of technology and innovation, lessening the work load on employees.

“I am still impressed no matter how often I see the operation,” said Aaron Toso, Amazon’s corporate communications manager.

It is easy to be impressed by the operation. When you click “Place Your Order” you set in motion what seems to be a simple mail-order purchase, but behind the scenes it is anything but simple.

After products arrive at the fulfillment center, they are identified and that identification is the “GPS” that guides the product through the distribution process. Material-handling robots automatically bring customer orders to employees to pack. Along the way products are randomly stored in cubbies the size of a microwave oven (a microwave-sized item is the largest item distributed through the Chester facility). The packers at each station see your order displayed on a computer monitor. The computer tells the packer what size box to use and a barcard and address label is printed, the packer sticks the label on the box, the box moves down the conveyer delivering you order to a service truck.

Amazon sold only books just 20 years ago, but in 2016 the online store sells just about anything you can imagine, from auto parts, a stegosaurus costume for your puppy, Roswell UFO crash site soil and live ladybugs for when you need a lot of luck.

“One of our top selling items we ship is ‘Gummy Bears,’” said Robert Gates, director of operations. “We carry 10 million products at this location.

“We do carry some food items at the fulfillment center, but the Prime Now hub in Richmond carries additional grocery items, like milk, eggs, ice cream and a selection of produce,” Toso said.
One hour Prime Now will deliver most products within an hour for a $7.99 surcharge, Prime members can get most products within two hours. Amazon has begun delivering groceries from a facility in Richmond to certain area zip codes.

“I had worked all day and had more to do so I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store on my way home,” said Lori Patton of Patton’s Auto and Tire. “I texted my order to Amazon and within, almost exactly, an hour it arrived.” Patton is sold on the service.

Beyond products produced by Amazon, (Amazon Fire, Echo Amazon Fire gaming and television) the fulfillment center ships products for sellers who could be you. Called ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ is now used by millions of sellers, selling a used books or other items.

The 1.2 million square foot center at Meadowville, with its high-tech computer-driven distribution systems, employees are still needed to run the fulfillment center. Amazon offers a benefits package that rivals most businesses.

One of the things the company is most proud of is “Career Choice” a partnership with John Tyler Community College. With a classroom right inside the facility, employees can take classes to start to further their education. The company will pay from 50 to 80 percent of the cost of the degree whether it is related to the fulfillment center or not.

Amazon has become important to the eastern end of Chesterfield County. Some complain about traffic generated by the Christmas ramp up, but the fulfillment center has partnered with Chesterfield County Police to continue to work on the problem. Petersburg Area Transit (PAT) has begun a bus route that is expected to relieve more traffic issues during this year’s holiday.