Alongside the robots, 1,500 employees process 200,000 parcels a day
October 20, 2022
Amazon.com Inc.’s 3.8 million square foot robotic fulfillment center in Suffolk opened in September, but the global retail colossus held a grand grand opening at the facility on Thursday , allowing Amazon officials to show the center to Governor Glenn Youngkin, who attended the opening event and toured
The $230 million, four-and-a-half-story building in Northgate Commerce Park is Virginia’s second-tallest building — behind the Pentagon — and has 1,500 employees. It handles around 200,000 parcels a day, with plans to reach 1 million a day.
Under construction for two years, it’s one of dozens of Amazon facilities in the Commonwealth, including several in Hampton Roads, but it’s Amazon’s first robotic fulfillment center in Virginia. Located at 2020 Northgate Commerce Parkway, the facility is nine football fields long and has more than 13 miles of transportation, Gregory Lum, the facility’s general manager, told the crowd gathered for the center’s grand opening.
In addition to Youngkin, government officials present included U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, Secretary of Commerce and Commerce Caren Merrick, Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III, and State Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, among others.
“When I think of Amazon, I think of innovation. I think of boldness. I think of a company that strives every day to be best in class. And those themes resonate with our Governor, who wants Virginia to be top of her class,” Merrick said at the event.
Youngkin highlighted the workforce Amazon is creating across the Commonwealth, and the 30,000 jobs the company has already created here, as well as the investments the retailer has made in logistics facilities and HQ2, headquarters Amazon’s $2.5 billion East Coast social enterprise being built in Arlington, which is expected to create an additional 20,000 to 25,000 jobs over the next decade.
“Today we have the chance to take a peek inside, to peek inside the incredible capabilities that enable Amazon to provide extraordinary customer service, access and cutting-edge opportunities to customers, and oh, by the way, the coolest robots you’ve ever seen,” Youngkin said. “What we’ll see today is the next generation of what robotics alongside an extraordinary workforce can do together…but it also represents Amazon’s commitment to maintaining a culture which is based on innovation.”
The building represents Amazon’s latest robotic technology in the country, an Amazon spokesperson told Virginia Business. The Suffolk center packs items 18 inches or smaller and serves the entire mid-Atlantic region, one of the reasons for the facility’s immense size.
“We introduced robotic technology to help make our operations safer and more efficient and that’s exactly what they are doing,” Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said, adding that robotic technology allows Amazon to ship packages to its customers faster and more efficiently. allowing human employees to focus on more sophisticated roles. Lum, the facility’s chief executive, noted that robots do “the heavy lifting” so humans don’t have to.
While touring the facility, Youngkin stopped to chat with employees working alongside robots to process and prepare customer orders for delivery. Thousands of items were rolling out of yellow bins, waiting to be placed in Amazon-branded packaging.
Youngkin stopped and spoke with Tamya Crawford, an area manager overseeing a team for part of the execution process. “It’s not easy work, but it’s rewarding,” said Crawford, who worked for Amazon for about a decade at facilities in Pennsylvania and central Virginia before joining the Suffolk hub this year.