A Method to the Madness
Imagine what it might take to find one of the 167 million items in the Library of Congress. Now, think of the same scenario if every book was last placed on the shelf at random and you only have 1 hour. This is essentially what happens every day at an Amazon Prime fulfillment center, except it’s on purpose.
When a customer places an order for same-day (2-hour) delivery, it is entered into the system so a warehouse picker can scan, retrieve, and organize inventory. To do this efficiently, Amazon employs a process referred to as “random stow,” which scatters similar products in different, known locations throughout a facility, rather than together, as might be observed in a supermarket, for instance (though the unintended consequence is that something like packaging requirements become a useful input). The last step is to sort complete orders by destination and date for pickup and delivery.
The reason this process works is because it’s more in line with the way online shoppers actually shop. The challenge was to create a system that would also acc…
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