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Amazon Opens Third Fulfillment Facility In Kansas, Employing Humans And Robots

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Humans and robots work together at Amazon's new fulfillment center in Kansas City, Kansas. The small, orange robots, shown underneath yellow stacks, scuttle along the floor to retrieve products for employees to package.

Amazon celebrated the grand opening of its third "fulfillment center" in Kansas on Tuesday.

The new 850,000 square-foot Kansas City, Kansas, began operations on August 6, 2017; other facilities were already operating in Lenexa and Edgerton. The centers serve as the conduit between an online order on Amazon to the shipment to the customer. 

The new facility is the first in the state to equip robots, several hundred of which operate along with 2,000 full-time employees.

As soon as a customer places an order, a small orange robot retrieves the product from the warehouse and delivers it to an employee, who begins the packaging process. Three floors of the facility are dedicated to selecting and stowing the products before they head to the third floor for packaging.

"The robots can't work without the people," Director of Operations Nikki Taylor White told KCUR. "That's the beauty of it. The robots are going the distance. The folks working here are using their minds."

Currently, White said, 200,000 packages are being packaged and shipped daily at the facility, which operates 22 hours a day, every day. During the holiday season, an additional 1,000 jobs will be available, White said.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer toured the Amazon Fulfillment Center Tuesday for its grand opening.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer touted the facility's employment opportunities.

"When we talked with Amazon about coming to Kansas, they were interested in great people that show up for the job, that can do high-tech things, but also grow in their job. That was important for us," Colyer told KCUR. 

The deal to bring the fulfillment center to Kansas City came together under the administration of former Gov. Sam Brownback. 

Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder said this development reflects positive economic growth in Wyandotte County and the Kansas City area. But he said he was also mindful of other news this week: the looming merger between T-Mobile and Sprint and what that might mean for Kansas City jobs.

"I'm very concerned about the merger," Yoder told KCUR. "I'm always concerned when a Fortune 500 headquarters moves out of Kansas City to another state."

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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