Four weeks of CamperForce are in the bag and six more remain. In the Receive department where I’m working here in Haslet, TX, everyone continues to be on 55 hours a week mandatory although for CamperForce that’s only 50 hours mandatory as we have to work that 5th day, but do not have to work the 11th hour every day (but they’d sure like us to work those extra five hours).
Other Inbound departments are now working mandatory overtime as well and Outbound is starting to pick up too. After Thanksgiving the tables will turn and Outbound should be the busier half of the workforce as all the stuff we’ve been cramming into the warehouse starts flying off the shelves to get to people’s houses in time for Christmas.
A few weeks ago I said I’d report more on the Receiving job as this is my first time working in this department, and that I shall. I’ve actually worked no fewer than five different jobs while I’ve been here, which makes me a happy girl because variety really breaks up the monotony of a long work week. There are a couple more I haven’t worked, but have talked to fellow campers who have.
Ready? First, the disclaimer: I am not officially affiliated with Amazon in any way and this post reflects my personal experiences and opinions only. Information shared here can change without warning, thank you for understanding.
Okay, here we go!
The first people who come into contact with new product entering the warehouse are the dock workers, and while I haven’t worked on the dock myself (it’s mostly guys, there is a lot of lifting) a couple work-campers have and have told me a little about it.
Pallet jacks and fork lifts are used to take the boxes on pallets out of the backs of semis into the warehouse where it is sorted into two or possibly three piles depending on where it came from–direct from a vendor, or transshipment from another Amazon facility.
Sometimes, a whole pallet will be the same product and in that case it stays on the pallet and gets stowed like that to keep it all together. Other boxes are taken off the pallet and loaded onto a line where a case sticker is applied to the box by a machine to keep track of it, and I think to virtually assign to that box the product that is physically in it, but again I’m not positive as I haven’t worked this area myself.
Once the box has a case sticker, it’s someone’s job to load it onto the correct receiving line. One of my neighbors in the campground got stuck in this position for a couple days and he says it’s one of the most boring jobs ever. The boxes come by on a loading line, and you pick up the box, turn around, and set it down on the receive line. Rinse and repeat for ten (or eleven) hours.
Most temporary help that works in the Receive department works on the receive line (lines actually, Haslet has six receive lines total). Computer stations are set up on both sides of a conveyer with boxes coming down it from the dock. You scan an empty tote that you have in a stack at your station, pull a box off the conveyer and scan the case label to tell the computer what items that box has, then you open the box with a box cutter.
If the box came from a vendor, you have to scan each item to receive it individually, moving it into your tote as you do so. If the box came from a trusted source (another Amazon facility from what I can tell), you don’t have to scan each item’s barcode but just empty the whole box into your tote. You should be checking items as you pull them out to make sure they’re in good shape and check that the description of the item that pops up on the screen is a match for the actual item.
After the box is empty or the tote is full, you close out the tote and either load it onto a cart at your station, or stick it on another conveyer depending on which line you’re working on. Then you move on to the next tote or next box.
At the Coffeyville facility my first year I worked as a water spider a time or two in the stow department, the job is similar here. Water spiders get the supplies needed (like totes, carts, tape, etc.) for the folks on the receive line so that they never need to leave their station. This job has the most walking of the Receive jobs, you’re always in motion running errands essentially. I’ve done this job several times and while it can get exhausting doing it for 10+ hours, if you’re looking for exercise this is the position that gets it.
I couldn’t tell you why the job is called water spidering, nobody I’ve talked to knows.
Sometimes a box comes down the receive line that is flagged in the computer for prep, meaning it needs special handling of some sort before it can be received. Those boxes are loaded onto a cart and taken to the prep department.
Sometimes, the items are fragile and need bubble wrapping or boxing. Sometimes they’re bottles of liquid that need to be put in a bag in case of leakage. Sometimes they’re items that need to be packaged together to make a set, or items that require some assembly.
Prep stations are set up with a computer, cart, and totes like the receive line, but they also have bubble wrap, boxes, and various sized bags to complete the above tasks in addition to receiving the item. While it’s mostly men on the dock, it’s mostly women in prep, I’ve worked in this department several times and if you like wrapping gifts and the like it can be fun.
This is the first year in my time with CamperForce that I’ve seen campers trained to be problem solvers, traditionally this job was solely in the realm of the full-time Amazonians.
Problem solvers get a laptop on a little cart that they wheel around to people on the receive line who’re having a problem. Maybe what the computer thinks is in the box isn’t what’s actually in the box, or the case label isn’t scanning, or the receiver accidentally entered the wrong number of items into their tote. It’s the problem solver’s job to fix these issues and more.
(Note, the stow department has problem solvers too.)
An ambassador is a trainer. They do safety school with the new hires and give them the tour of the warehouse, then take them back to the department they’ll be working in (Receive in this case) and show them how to do the job. When there are no new hires to train, they’ll work on the line the same as any other worker, but they have a yellow vest that marks them out so if anyone on the line has questions they can seek them out.
At the end of my very first week I was asked if I’d be interested in being an Ambassador because of my previous experience, but I turned the offer down because I hardly knew the warehouse or the job at that point and I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of having to switch shifts (a possibility, not a certainty). As far as I know, problem solvers and ambassadors make no more per hour than any other job.
The end of the line
After the product is received and in totes, prepped if necessary and hopefully without any problems that needed solving, it’s someone’s job to get the totes to the stowers who’ll be putting it on shelves.
If the totes are on a cart, the carts might be loaded on an automated PIT (powered industrial truck) that whisks them away to a stow location, or loaded on the elevators to take them to a higher floor to be stowed. If they came down a tote conveyer, they need to be loaded onto a pallet at the end of the receive line before they can be moved.
My very first full length day, I was told to wrap these pallets at the end of the receive lines so they could be safely put on the elevator without fear of totes falling. I had a gigantic tube of cling wrap loaded onto this crazy pole, and I ran circles around pallets for ten hours. When the tube of cling wrap was used up, I’d load the next one the other way so I could run the opposite direction for a little variety. When there were no pallets to wrap, I’d stand there leaning on my absurd cling-wrap-staff at the end of the receive line watching everyone else work and feeling mighty silly.
And there you have it! I hope you’ve all enjoyed this description of various Receive department jobs and that it’ll help those of you thinking of trying CamperForce in the future. Remember, all of my articles about Amazon’s CamperForce can be found here if you’re looking for more information. Have a good weekend all!
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For those who don’t follow the comments section, a reader posted a link at the end of my last CamperForce post to a YouTube video of how the KIVA robots work. You can check that out here.
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