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Amazon building first robotics fulfillment center in Australia

Artists rendition of new Amazon facility in Sydney. (Image: Amazon)

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced on Tuesday that it has begun construction on its first fulfillment center in Australia equipped with robots to improve the efficiency of processing online orders. 

The 2-million square-foot facility, which will house up to 11 million items and create more than 1,500 jobs, is Amazon’s second fulfillment center in western Sydney. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2021.

Amazon Australia launched in December 2017 and now has three fulfillment centers, including in Melbourne and Perth. A fourth facility in Brisbane is scheduled to open late this year. The new robotics facility more than doubles its current footprint in the country.

Amazon said 10,000 small- and medium-sized businesses that use Amazon’s fulfillment service will benefit from the additional capacity.

Amazon Robotics technology will be used to move shelves to employees to reduce picking time for orders. The electronic-retailer operates more than 175 fulfillment centers worldwide, 50 of them with robotics capability, and more than 40 sort centers.

Amazon deploys several types of robots at its automated fulfillment centers. Palletizers have robotic arms with grips that identify and grab totes from conveyor belts and stack them on pallets for shipping or stowing. Another type of robotic arm lifts pallets of inventory to different levels or places them on drive units to be carried to their next destination. The drive unit is a robot that transports packages around facilities. Amazon says it has 100,000 drive units in locations around the world as well as six robotic stowing machines and 30 palletizers.

Amazon started using robotics after its 2012 acquisition of Boston-based Kiva Systems, since renamed Amazon Robotics. The company says robots make it possible to store 40% more inventory, making it easier to fulfill Prime orders on time since it’s less likely for an item to run out.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]