As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon needs somewhere to put all of those products. The solution? Giant warehouses. Eighty to be exact. Strategically located near key shipping hubs around the world.
The warehouses themselves are massive, with some over 1.2 million square feet in size (111,484 sq m). And at the heart of this global operation are people (over 65,000 of them), and a logistics system known as chaotic storage.
Chaotic storage is like organized confusion. It’s an organic shelving system without permanent areas or sections. That means there is no area just for books, or a place just for televisions (like you might expect in a retail store layout). The product’s characteristics and attributes are irrelevant. What’s important is the unique barcode associated with every product that enters the warehouse.
Every single shelf space inside an Amazon warehouse has a barcode. And every incoming product that requires storage is assigned a specific barcode that matches the shelf space in which it will be stored. This allows free space to be filled quickly and efficiently.
In this storage system a wide variety of products can be found located next to each other. A necklace could be located beside a DVD and underneath a set of power tools. This arbitrary placement can even help with accuracy as it makes mix-ups less likely when picking orders for shipment.
Overall it’s a fascinating system that at its core is powered by a complex database yet run by a simple philosophy. It’s Chaotic Storage. There’s no better way to put it 🙂