Behind The Doors of An Amazon Fulfillment Center: The Basics You Need To Know Now
What happens in between browsing Amazon.com, adding items to cart and checking out and the moment you receive your package at your doorstep? Occupying over 5 million square feet, Amazon’s fulfillment centres act as the key connectors between customers and merchandise.
These massive warehouses, operated by Amazon, oversee the storage, organization, prepping and packing of items. Today we’re breaking down some of the most frequently asked questions about Amazon fulfillment centres.
Amazon has more than 175 fulfillment centers and counting across North America, many of which are set up for FBA. Shipping to Amazon FBA is relatively easy, but it does take some work. There are many decisions to be made, and some product categories require extra measures to be taken
What is an Amazon fulfillment center?
Amazon FC is the BIGGEST 3PL in the world and a critical step in helping getting products into the hands of Amazon’s millions of customers. Amazon fulfillment centers warehouse items and also act as a prep station to ensure packages will safely reach consumers.
What does an Amazon fulfillment center do?
An Amazon fulfillment centre employs associates who prep products efficiently as a part of the distribution process for Amazon online orders. Amazon has fulfillment centers in North America and Europe. Employees ensure products will reach customers safely, quickly and in excellent condition.
The scale of the Amazon fulfillment center is humongous and every inch of the warehouse is used to help keep the process of delivering parcels moving as quickly as possible.
1. Products are stored in Amazon Fulfillment centers based on whether they originated from another Amazon storage facility or were shipped to the fulfillment center by an independent vendor.
2. None of the items are organized according to size, colour or similarities. To the untrained eye the stock shelves will appear completely random, but the layout is built off very strategic data and algorithms to optimize every order that leaves the warehouse. to ensure there are no backlogs when robots or employees need to locate specific items.
3. Robots patrol the facility picking out items to fulfill orders that are packed by Amazon’s human employees.
4. Quality is always top of mind and the Amazon Fulfillment Center has multiple checkpoints for employees to evaluate items for hazards or damage. Amazon Fulfillment Centers house Inventory Control and Quality Assurance teams who are totally dedicated to this type of analysis.
5. Boxes, tape and other packaging required to properly ship orders is an important element of Amazon Fulfillment Centers. Robots are used to measure the most sustainable amount of material required for each shipment. Watch the process of how orders get packed in this oddly satisfying video here.
6. Before packages leave the fulfillment center they are labeled with shipping information and then loaded into a truck to be speedily delivered to their final destination.
You can dive deeper into the various facets of an Amazon fulfillment center here.
What is an Amazon ‘Prep’ center?
An Amazon Prep Center handles the logistics behind selling a product on Amazon from start to finish.
Once products are received, the prep center team sorts, inspects, and analyzes products to ensure they’re up to par to be shipped to the Amazon fulfillment center.
The prep center facility stores products as well as organizes packing and labeling requires for an Amazon fulfillment center to receive.
What are the different ways to fulfill orders as an Amazon seller?
The two ways to fulfill orders are Amazon FBM (Amazon fulfilled by merchant) and Amazon FBA (Amazon fulfill by Amazon) Both can be effective depending on the size of your business.
Amazon FBM: Amazon fulfillment by the merchant, or FBM, is a fulfillment method where you, as a seller, are responsible for distributing your product to your customer base directly; this includes controlling, handling, and shipping to your buyer. Whether it is through self-fulfillment or a 3PL (third-party logistics company), Amazon plays no part in the physical distribution of the product. Download the AMZ Prep Amazon FBM Guide here.
Amazon FBA: Amazon fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA is when Amazon takes care of the shipping and handling of a product. If you’re selling a smaller number of units and are ok with paying a fee to Amazon, FBA is a great strategy if you’re looking to strictly handle sales and let Amazon do the rest. Learn more about FBA here.
Is an Amazon warehouse the same as a fulfillment center?
An Amazon warehouse holds products in bulk for commercial purposes. Warehouses ensure products are safe and organized before they are shipped to their next destination.
By contrast, fulfillment centers also incorporate the process of packing and shipping products in addition to just storing them until they are sold.
If we’re getting into the technicalities, most sellers will use a mix of third-party fulfillment centers such as AMZ Prep, alongside Amazon’s warehouses to optimize their product fulfillment across the world. The other key differentiating point is that most fulfillment centers will also fulfill orders for your own website, Shopify, or even local stores and offer storage where Amazon won’t, they strictly want to fulfill fast-moving items.
Can you shop at an Amazon fulfillment center?
Amazon fulfillment centers are not physical storefronts and therefore you cannot purchase items or shop in a fulfillment center. All purchases must be made online through Amazon.
You can sign up to visit an Amazon fulfillment center and learn more about the process. Get an overview of what you’ll see on an Amazon warehouse tour here.
Benefits of amazon fulfillment?
The biggest benefit of Amazon FBA is that your products will be eligible for Amazon Prime free two-day shipping, which Amazon users love.
Amazon FBA also provides 24/7 customer support and also takes care of all logistics for situations where a product needs to be returned.
If you don’t want to hassle yourself with the regulations and shipping practices for selling on Amazon, FBA takes care of all of this for you.
How much does amazon fulfillment cost?
One of the drawbacks of Amazon FBA is that Amazon Fulfillment can get expensive.
Merchants are required to pay for order fulfilment and inventory storage. You can compare costs to determine what plan is most effective for your business using Amazon Seller Central and also Amazon Vendor Central.
Shipping fees are charged in addition to the Amazon fulfillment center fees, and are calculated based on the unit weight of the package.
Find out more by visiting Amazon’s fulfilment fee page here.
How does Amazon choose what location they send your product too?
Amazon stores inventory in individual pickable locations. Before your products reach an Amazon fulfillment center it’s critical you review the packaging and prep requirements, labeling requirements, and shipping and routing requirements. You can’t control where your products will be stored if you’re using Amazon FBA.
For example, we know that the surfboards being sold on Amazon.com will sell better in California and Florida, compared to New York City and North Dakota. Amazon understands this, and will send your product to the most strategic warehouse based on thousands of data points to optimize its cost of fulfillment and get to the customer in the fastest time possible.
If you want control over where your products are prepped, packed, and stored so you can have a better understanding of overall shipping costs, warehouses like AMZ Prep are the perfect choice.
How do I send my products to Amazon fulfillment centers?
Creating a shipping plan is the first step for shipping your items into Amazon.
If you’re shipping in a Private Label product, you’ll need to create a listing for that product before creating a shipping order. Shipping orders are tied directly to a listing – creating that listing, if it doesn’t already exist, will allow you to then create your Shipping Plan. If you haven’t already created a listing, log into Seller Central and head to Inventory > Manage Inventory.
From there, you will be able to add products to your account by clicking on Add A Product in the top-right section of the page. After you’ve added your product, and filled out all of the appropriate information for that product, your listing will be complete!
Once this is done, you’re ready to create your Shipping Plan. Go to the Manage Inventory page and select each item you want to ship to Amazon. Select Send/Replenish Inventory from the Actions on Selected drop-down menu. From here, you can create a new shipping plan or add to an existing one.
Next, verify your ship-from address. This is where you’re shipping the products from, so it may be your home, business or supplier. If your products are shipping from a Chinese Manufacturer, for example, you would need to input your manufacturer’s address here.
Confirm the packing type next. Individual products are single products of different qualities and conditions, while case-packed products are identical items in the same condition.
Typically arbitrage sellers will create Individual Product shipping plans, while most Private Label sellers will create Case-Packed shipping plans. In each of these cases, an arbitrage seller might have a lot of different items in one box shipping into Amazon (Individual Products) while a Private Label seller might have a lot of the same item to ship into Amazon (Case-Packed).
Click Continue to shipping plan. You can now proceed through the 6 main steps sellers must follow to fulfill a shipping plan. Dive deeper into the process in our post, Shipping to Amazon FBA: A 6 Step Guide
Can you tour the amazon fulfillment center?
If you’re curious about what goes on behind the scenes in an Amazon fulfillment center you can take a virtual tour for insight into how employees pick, pack and ship products.