How does Amazon robotics center work? See inside CA site

They like to call it the “Amazon Disneyland of the West.”

It doesn’t sound much different than your typical factory – clanging of machines drowning out your voice. But much of the drone comes from the busy blue machines carrying packages through a maze of yellow beams. The ultimate goal: get them to your doorstep as quickly as possible.

In Tracy, at Amazon’s newest robotics center, employees work side by side with robots. The new technology isn’t making jobs disappear, they just become “more skilled,” said site leader Ryan Gunnell during a tour of the facility on Friday.

“Even though you have robotics, there’s still people that have to make sure those robotics work,” Gunnell said.

A robotic yellow arm with half a dozen suction cups picks up your order and places it on top of the robot. QR codes guide the machines, which sit low to the ground hauling packages with a conveyor belt system. Then the packages are dropped into a chute, where they make their way to loading.

A robotic arm prepares to release a suction-gripped package at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy on Friday. Hector Amezcua

This process eliminates associates having to move packages that weigh less than 50 pounds.

Sometimes the robots drop packages, and specially trained Amazon associates have to stop the robotic frenzy to navigate the floor and get operations moving again. Safety, Gunnell said, is a top priority.

Amazon employs roughly 170,000 people in California, according to a news release. Jobs cross sectors, in fulfillment, technology, retail and entertainment. The sorting system in Tracy sits roughly 75 miles south of Sacramento, just northwest of Modesto.

“We’re very excited to show it off,” Gunnell said. “We tell everyone that ‘we’re the Amazon Disneyland of the West.’ We have so (much) brand new machinery that we’re using. ”

A worker at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy wraps a pallet with packages Friday that were sorted by a new team of robots that move autonomously loaded packages with robotic arms. Hector Amezcua

There are more than 50 open positions at the center in Tracy, Gunnell told The Bee.

Last year the company launched buildings across the state, including in Sacramento and Fresno.

It opened a new center in Metro Park last summer, more than doubling its presence in the Sacramento area.

Amazon also plans to open a high-tech grocery store in Roseville, where shoppers can use smart carts to skip the checkout line.

The Bee’s Brianna Taylor contributed to this story.

A package is scanned at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy. Hector Amezcua

A robot carries a package at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy on Friday. While the robots are efficient and help lighten the load on workers, some dropped packages still have to be recovered by specially trained workers. Hector Amezcua

An associate at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy walks near between pallets on Friday. A new team of robots moves and loads packages autonomously, but much of the work is still done by workers and the company is still hiring. Hector Amezcua

This story was originally published February 5, 2022 5:00 AM.

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