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Behind the scenes: How AI is used at Amazon warehouses

Click to play video: 'How AI is used at a new Amazon warehouse west of Edmonton'
How AI is used at a new Amazon warehouse west of Edmonton
A new type of Amazon warehouse has opened just west of Edmonton in Parkland County. At Amazon's Acheson fulfillment centre, 2,000 staff are going all out — packing 600 orders per minute to ensure all those last-minute Christmas gifts make it to their intended destination in time. But as Sarah Ryan explains, they're not working alone — some robots are helping out at one of the most technologically advanced fulfilment centres in North America – Dec 19, 2023

Amazon offered a behind-the-scenes look at how artificial intelligence is used at its YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, west of Edmonton in Parkland County.

The last few weeks of December are busy ones at Amazon warehouses as the company works to fulfil millions of customer orders.

“This is the busiest part of the year,” explained Suresh Kumar, general manager of Amazon YEG2.

“We call it holiday peak season. During this period, we ship close to 700,000 units every day, which is close to 600 packages every minute.”

Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023.
Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023. Global News

And it’s using AI to help.

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“This is one of the most technologically advanced fulfilment centres in North America. It’s an Amazon robotics facility,” said Kumar.

“We have over 5,000 robotic drives and we have 25 robotic arms which work alongside our associates to pack and ship packages faster.”

The site uses automated stations to improve safety and ergonomics, including ROBIN, a robotic arm that responds to its environment in real time.

“We have built in a lot of automation,” Kumar said. “There are smart-pac machines where you just need to place the item and the package gets made automatically. There’s auto-boxing machine where cardboard boxes get custom made.”

Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023.
Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023. Global News

This particular warehouse — YEG2 in Acheson — has had delivery accuracy of greater than 99.5 per cent since Black Friday, meaning thousands of items have been correctly processed from order to shipment in as little as three hours for Alberta customers.

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Click to play video: 'Amazon posts 600 jobs for new Edmonton-area facility'
Amazon posts 600 jobs for new Edmonton-area facility

“Our speed to customers in Edmonton and Alberta has greatly increased this year,” Kumar said.

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“Across Edmonton, if you order now, they’ll be available next-day delivery for you. Worst case, two-day delivery.”

Once the site gets orders, they are able to ship most of them within two to four hours, he added.

Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023.
Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023. Global News

The 2.4-million square-foot facility just off Highway 60 and Highway 16A is also the workplace for more than 2,000 employees.

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Forty full-size soccer fields would fit inside it.

Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023. Global News

This Amazon site employs staff of more than 85 different nationalities, as well as 28 deaf and hearing impaired employees.

The site also conducts daily safety inspections and makes “hundreds of changes as a result of employee feedback,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Amazon YEG2 fulfilment centre in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 19, 2023. Global News

YEG2 opened in February. Semis hauling shipments from the Edmonton International Airport and elsewhere have been spotted going back and forth on Highway 60 through Devon with increased frequency.

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The Parkland County warehouse primarily handles shipments to B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and mostly smaller items.

Bigger products ship from the Amazon site in Nisku, south of Edmonton.

Click to play video: 'Amazon Canada set to ramp up hiring in expansion plan'
Amazon Canada set to ramp up hiring in expansion plan

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