What happens behind the walls of the city’s largest distribution warehouse is no longer a mystery after the doors of Patterson’s Amazon Fulfillment Center were opened Tuesday, Jan. 20, for the facility’s grand opening celebration. Speeches were given by Kish Rajan from the Governor’s office, as well as by Mike Roth, Amazon’s Vice President of North America operations, Assembly member Adam Gray, and Patterson Mayor Luis Molina before a tour of the facility was given.

"This is a great day to be here in Patterson," Rajan told the crowd from Amazon’s conference room. "The great news is, from the depths of the great recession, we’ve come back."

Patterson’s Mayor Luis Molina congratulated the hard work by everyone, including the developers and community members who helped bring the Amazon building to the city. "We look forward to more fruitful dividends, not only with Amazon, but also other companies that are looking forward to coming here, current, past, and future," Molina told the crowd.

Patterson’s 1 million-square-foot facility has been in operation since late 2013 and is the only of the five fulfillment centers in the state to be an eighth-generation facility.

Advancements in logistics over the years has molded the way that Amazon constructs and operates their hundreds of distribution centers located around the world. Patterson’s warehouse is no different, and it has received the latest in efficient technological upgrades.

"The eighth-generation integrates people and technology for a better experience for the customer," Patterson fulfillment center general manager Dan Fay said during a tour provided to the Irrigator. "What was once hours now only takes minutes."

What sets Patterson’s warehouse and the nine other eighth-generation facilities across the country apart from anything else in the logistics industry is their integration of robotic technologies.   

From the second one steps into the center of the large Patterson facility, it’s hard not to notice the two-story-tall yellow mechanical arm, nicknamed "Armazon," that quickly and efficiently transports full pallets from the ground floor up to the second floor.

The Robo-Stow, as it is officially called, weighs six tons, and resembles an enlarged version of a mechanical arm used to build vehicles on an automobile assembly line. It operates completely on its own, and will effortlessly sit idle until the next pallet needs to be moved.

This mechanized assistant is unique to Patterson, and is perfect at handling the large items that the facility handles.

While the Robo-Stow single-handedly does all the heavy lifting, hundreds of orange robots made by Kiva Systems LLC quietly and orderly move mountains of products through a maze of shelves in a part of the fulfillment center that only the robots are allowed to work in, referred to as the Kiva field.

The short hula hoop-sized robots slide under shelves full of products stashed away within two stories of inventory, stowing items or collecting them for shipment.

Each Kiva robot knows where it needs to be in the Kiva field, and knows which products are on which shelf at all times. This process makes things much more efficient for the company, allowing tasks to be completed in a fraction of a time that they used to take.

"In a traditional situation without Kiva, cubicles would be stacked up," spokeswoman for Amazon Ashley Robinson said. "With Kiva, it reduces the walking time and allows us to produce an order in minutes instead of hours." 

Robinson later referred to the seventh-generation San Bernardino Fulfillment Center and the necessity for more employees due to the lack of the Kiva robots.

A Box On Demand machine is the next stop for some of the large items that come through the Patterson facility, and is another example of the various technological innovations that Amazon utilizes to promote efficiency.  

The chosen item is run through an overhead dimensioner that scans the product and makes a box specifically for each item.

Amazon officials noted that the Box On Demand machine is great for customers because it ships smaller boxes and reduces excess cardboard waste.

Boxes then receive a bar code and a shipping label that sorters utilize to direct the package into the back of a truck to be shipped far and wide.

While Tuesday’s grand opening wasn’t for the general public, 25 Patterson Joint Unified School District children, who included members of the high school logistics program and a group of special needs students that received kindles from Amazon last year, also received a tour of the 1 million-square-foot building.

Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 ext. 31 or elias@pattersonirrigator.com.

PI news, community and crime reporter

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