Amazon Prime Now hub

Behind the Scenes

1 Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

Four days before Christmas, orders were still trickling in steadily at the Amazon Prime Now hub on Milwaukee’s southwest side. Opened in March, the warehouse is one of 30 U.S. Prime Now hubs in densely populated areas that focus exclusively on one-hour and two-hour deliveries to Amazon Prime members within a 15-mile radius. The 25,000-square-foot warehouse houses tens of thousands of items, from groceries to electronics to wrapping paper. A sophisticated software system built on scanners and barcodes builds the most efficient route for its 20 cart-wielding employees to pick items off the shelf. It’s like a mini version of Amazon’s 1 million-square-foot, 2,500-employee Kenosha fulfillment center, aimed at quickly gathering and distributing commonly ordered items.

  1. A bar code scanner system tells pickers where items are located by aisle, bin and loose product description. Employees pick or stow items interchangeably.
  2. The hub is organized into lettered and numbered aisles, and items are divided into categories such as ambient (small), high-velocity (frequently ordered) and hazmat (contains chemicals).
  3. Items are stored in a “random stow” assortment to assure accuracy and efficiency. Legos might be next to a hair dryer and a can of beans.
  4. Area manager Bo Blazavier picks items for several orders at the Milwaukee Amazon Prime Now hub. The most commonly ordered products are toilet paper, water and bananas.
  5. Rush orders must be picked within minutes so one of about 200 area delivery drivers can get them to a customer in less than an hour. Two-hour delivery is free with a minimum order of $35, and one-hour delivery comes with a $7.99 fee.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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