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Inside Amazon’s Warehouses

If you’re expecting the inside of Amazon’s warehouses to be some sort of rigidly organized robot-filled warehouse of tomorrow, you’ll be quite surprised to find that storage technique they employ is called “chaotic storage”.

International Business Times paid a visit to a major Amazon warehouse and took a tour. Rather than finding robots they found:

Amazon must rely on barcodes and human hands to find the ordered items and drop them into the proper bins — without robots, Amazon utilizes a system known as “chaotic storage,” where products are essentially shelved at random.

By storing items randomly instead of categorically, the warehouse has a much better flow of material. Even without robots or automation, Amazon can compile a “picking list” where each item needs to be taken off the shelf and scanned again before it can be shipped.

The real advantage to chaotic storage is that it’s significantly more flexible than conventional storage systems. If there are big changes in a product range, the company doesn’t need to plan for more space, because the products or their sales volumes don’t need to be known or planned in advance if they’re simply being stored at random.

The next time your boss makes a comment about your messy office, just tell him you’re taking a cue from Amazon’s organic storage techniques.

Inside An Amazon Warehouse [International Business Times]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/30/12

Comments (11)

  1. LadyFitzgerald

    I used to work in warehousing and trying to get people to understand how chaotic storage worked and to work with it instead of against it was like pulling impacted wisdom teeth with broken tweezers. Even much of lower management didn’t get it. Getting IT to give us the proper tools to make it work wasn’t much easier.

  2. LadyFitzgerald

    Forgot to mention, I heard of chaotic storage (except it was called random storage back then) over 20 years ago. Westinghouse and the US Army were among the first to develop and utilize it.

  3. AsaGraf

    Anyone else thinking Indiana Jones?

  4. streetwolf

    lol. Where’s the lost Ark?

  5. LadyFitzgerald

    LOL!

  6. Afkargh

    Being checked out by top men…TOP MEN.

  7. Burned

    I work in a warehouse. We use an organized storage system with barcoded locations and FIFA system.
    Much easier to find and keep track of stock.

  8. ReadandShare

    I bet Amazon is selling a lot fewer books than it used to… Bet also that Amazon was glad it branched out from selling books to selling ‘everything’.

  9. beergas

    Worked in warehouse IBM had in P’keepsie NY in college days. They’d have gone nutso with random gameplay. They created supermarket scanning so that was their in house baby. Did seem to help speed fetch flow but did nothing for the sheer boredom, lol. More things change….

  10. Little John

    I work in maintenance for several years, the parts would group together for the machine which they belong. Except nuts, bolts, belts and other common parts, they would be stored in bins in the order of size then length. Bearings had common area too, bearings have sizes from 5mm shaft to 8″ shaft. Specially tools were kept in warehouse, when we took a tool and place token on the hook. The token has the name of person and the area where the person worked.

  11. Jacko

    LOL typical media stealing ideas – it was Wordswithmeaning.org that asked Amazon for these photos in 2011 and published them

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