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Inside Delaware Amazon facility on Cyber Monday [gallery]

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It’s the busiest day of the year for hundreds of workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Middletown, Delaware on Cyber Monday.

A seemingly endless supply of boxes flowed into Amazon’s facility in Middletown on Monday, ready to be sorted and shipped to fulfill what is expected to be a record breaking number of orders. 

“Last year on Cyber Monday, our customers ordered 426 items per second, which is record-breaking for us, and we actually anticipate that today is going to be bigger,” said Amazon’s Kiesha Cochrane.

All those orders mean plenty of work for the 2,000 full time employees at the $90 million Delaware facility. They are getting help from temporary workers hired for the season. Nationwide, Amazon hires about 80,000 seasonal workers. 

Massive warehouse

The one million square foot facility can be a bit overwhelming as you first step inside. Conveyor belts carry bright yellow trays throughout the warehouse at surprisingly fast speed. In the receiving area, hundreds of cardboard boxes are unpacked as products are prepared to be stored.

Surprisingly, there’s no real rhyme or reason for where items are placed on shelves when they arrive. Products are stored wherever there’s space, Cochrane said.

“The idea is basically that human beings store where there’s space for something. And it also makes it easier so that you’re not looking at five Harry Potter DVDs and you’re trying to find the right one, if that’s the only Harry Potter DVD on that shelf, you know you’re getting the right item.”

One of those employees tasked with fulfilling orders from items that have been stored on shelves is Middletown native Ben Fitzpatrick. “When you click the mouse at home to order something, it comes to a handheld scanner that we have,” Fitzpatrick explained. That scanner tells the picker where an item was stored. “[We] make sure it’s in good quality and put it into a tote to get into our packing department to get out to our customers.”

Local business support

While giant online retailers like Amazon often draw criticism for taking business away from local stores, at least one Delaware retailer is growing because of Amazon. Jennifer McMillan of Newark partners with Amazon to sell toys and other items through her store, Shop Your Pants Off. 

After getting started in Amazon’s third party seller pilot program, McMillan said her business, which started as a hobby five years ago, is now thriving. “They’ve exposed us to a really large customer base and our business has grown so much that we’ve taken a hobby to a full time business for both myself and my husband.” 

McMillan said business is going so well, she hopes to expand and add some employees next year.

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