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Exclusive: Amazon shuffles thousands of workers in its quest to revamp delivery

Krystal Hu

Job changes at Amazon are happening faster than your Prime delivery.

Last week, thousands of employees in fulfillment centers in California, Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey learned at a sudden emergency all-hands meeting that their facilities will be closed for remodeling, and that they will have to vacate in two months.

Amazon offered affected workers an option to transfer to nearby sites, where they would work similar jobs and work schedules. They can also move to other sites in the country or interview for new positions at the company, but they need to secure an offer by June or they will be terminated. Workers have been given 10 days to make a decision.

“We are constantly evaluating our fulfillment network to ensure best customer selection and convenience. After thoughtful review, we’ve determined some of our facilities across the US would be better suited to handle different customer inventory and delivery,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Yahoo Finance.

Although in shock, some employees said they are happy with the options. “We are working closely with each employee to ensure they are supported during this transition and we look forward to expanding our customer offerings in the months to come,” Amazon said.

All the buildings impacted this time are known as Amazon Robotics Quick Deploy, facilities that carry smaller items, ranging in size from 6 -18 inches, and use Kiva robots. The buildings will be retrofitted for different purposes, including sorting centers, print-on-demand book facilities and Amazon Fresh delivery hubs.

Amazon is still nimble

Packages move down a conveyor system to the proper shipping area at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The changes highlight that despite its sheer size, Amazon can move fast to dispatch employees and repurpose facilities to meet its needs. In its early days, the company built facilities in less populated U.S. states to avoid collecting taxes. But as Amazon grows, its priorities have shifted to ensure that Prime members are offered speedy delivery.

Brittain Ladd, a retail consultant, said Amazon’s primary goal is to reduce the costs of fulfilling orders and to ship as close to all customers as possible. In categories like books and T-shirts, Amazon now provides made-on-demand services, making products in-house as the orders come in. As it invests more resources in grocery delivery following the Whole Foods acquisition, it also utilizes delivery hubs near urban centers for fresh produce.

Besides retrofitting current sites, Amazon is also fast building new fulfillment centers, with more than 10 facilities under development, including a 2 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Bakersfield California. Multiple-story warehouses have also sprung up that Amazon executives even hinted about measuring the space by cubic feet.

“Amazon is in a never-ending logistics race with Walmart and other companies,” said Ladd. “The real need is an ability to enable the supply chain to generate growth, and leverage an optimized logistics network to achieve a competitive advantage.”

Krystal Hu covers technology and China for Yahoo Finance. Write to her via krystalh@yahoofinance.com or follow her on Twitter.

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