Amazon’s new Staten Island distribution center promises to bring inventory closer to one of its largest markets while keeping operations relatively tight.
At 855,000 square feet, the facility is roughly the size of 15 football fields. And that’s 20 percent smaller than the company’s other fulfillment centers, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Finding warehouse space within city limits—especially in New York—proves a challenge for any brand or distributor, but Amazon is making the most of its small Staten Island footprint by building vertically.
The new facility has four mezzanines where inventory is stacked floor-to-ceiling on shelves. Autonomous robots supplement the warehouse’s human staff, and they’re mostly tasked with picking up and delivering hard-to-reach goods to live workers. Not having to build ramps to accommodate human foot traffic has helped save space in the facility, which, according to Amazon, can handle 50 percent more inventory than a run-of-the-mill warehouse.
Of course, there are some limitations as a result of the size. Amazon has had to move its sorting operations to other locations in or around the city to ensure that every bit of usable space in the Staten Island facility is saved for inventory. This particular fulfillment center only handles items that are smaller than 18 inches in diameter, like electronics, trash bags and cleaning supplies. But what the facility lacks in size, it makes up in volume. The distribution center can ship more than one million items a day at peak capacity.
Even though the limited space has forced some operational concessions, the proximity to such a major market is invaluable to the brand. Amazon spokesperson Ashley Robinson told the WSJ that the “super compact” Staten Island fulfillment center was just one of a handful of such facilities, with others in Baltimore, Seattle and Dallas “built on this same format.”
Of course, these smaller facilities are supplementary to the company’s other efforts to snap up as much space as possible across the country. Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to transform Ohio’s long-defunct Rolling Acres Mall into a 695,383-square-foot fulfillment center, which will cater to the East Coast corridor. Amazon also bought Ohio’s former Randall Park Mall, transforming it into a 2-million-square-foot warehouse facility last year.
The brand’s Prime business and the promise of two-day shipping has become a central tenet of the Amazon value proposition, along with the aggregation of more than six million products on a single platform. As consumer demand for goods mounts, so too does the need for more space—mostly in the form of massive, sprawling facilities in convenient suburban hubs. Still, Robinson told the Journal she believes the ability to build vertically and utilize robotics will cut down on the average distribution center’s footprint, allowing Amazon to get closer to its city-dwelling patrons.