Amid a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic staff at online retail giant Amazon’s Fife distribution centre are gearing up for potentially the busiest period in its history as Black Friday looms.
With more people than ever expected to go online to do their Christmas shopping this festive period, especially given the varying degrees of lockdown, workers at Amazon’s Dunfermline fulfilment centre, the company’s second largest UK facility, will be working around the clock to ensure customers receive their orders when they want them despite these most unprecedented of times.
From the moment any one of the 250 million items that Amazon sells arrives at the centre, a mixture of technology and dedicated individuals will be beavering away across a centre the size of 17 football pitches and the equivalent of 1.5 million sq foot, to meet demand.
Boasting over 1,000 full time employees, a further 1,000 temporary staff on short-term contracts will also be hired to cope with the surge in seasonal orders.
However, with the pandemic having changed many aspects of our daily lives, not least how businesses function, operations at the Dunfermline site will be conducted under much more stringent social distancing and safety measures to those experienced in 2019.
Site Leader, Jamie Strain, who took up the role in March just as the pandemic broke, is quick to admit the last nine months have been something of a baptism of fire for him but adds he’s more than up to the challenge.
“Covid has changed the way we operate but that has been driven by our number one priority which remains the safety and well-being of our staff, “ he said.
“From day one, Amazon has been ahead of the constantly changing social distancing requirements and we’ve introduced over 150 changes to ensure staff safety is met.
“From how people enter the site to how staff take their lunch break, move around the vast complex or how items are picked and packaged, nothing has been overlooked and everything is constantly reviewed.
“I’m hugely proud of my staff who have wholeheartedly bought into what we have done.
“They have embraced the changes, be it to work stations, transforming meeting rooms into extra canteen spaces which ensure full social distancing, one-way systems and the introduction of designated staff in all areas on-hand to guide and remind fellow workers to follow the safe working methods.”
Most impressive of all the safety measures is the construction of a walk in coronavirus testing area for staff.
Introduced five weeks ago, employees can voluntarily opt to have a simple Covid test offering peace of mind results back from Amazon’s purpose built testing lab in Manchester in little more than 24 hrs.
“It’s just another way of showing our staff that we care about their welfare, both here and elsewhere,” said Jamie.
“It allows us to identify asymptomatic cases who might not otherwise be tested and the feedback so far has been very positive indeed.
“Anyone having to self-isolate does so confident that we will support them on full pay throughout that time before they return.”
Engineer, Alan Morrison is one of the many employees to use the purpose built, walk-in testing station.
“Being able to take a test gives me the confidence that I’m keeping my family safe,” said Alan.
Alan was met by a team of volunteers who are on hand to assist their colleague before processing the individual swabs ready to be sent to a purpose built lab in Manchester which will send back results n little more than 24 hours.
For Alan, 38, who has worked at the centre for the past eight years, the test is quick, easy and offers results and peace of mind and without the anxious wait.
“This is the fourth time I’ve taken the test which involves using a nasal swap,” he explained.
“I’ve had the results back in a day or so and the whole process offers me that extra reassurance in my efforts to stay as safe as I can.”
Boss, Jamie, said he’s been encouraged by the staff feedback since the testing was introduced adding that it highlighted Amazon’s commitment to safety.
“It’s simple and its keeping people safe and helping to fight the spread of coronavirus,” he added.
“Staff have welcomed it and we are now seeing increasing numbers use it.”
The testing programme, which complements the comprehensive safety measures already in place at Amazon sites across the UK, is being led in the UK by Antoine Dreyfus, formerly director of Amazon devices in the EU.
He said: “Providing regular testing for our employees will allow us to identify asymptomatic cases who might not otherwise be tested.
“We’re able to catch the virus earlier and place those individuals in quarantine, with full pay, so they can recover before infecting others.
“We believe this programme will help save lives.”
back on the shop floor it’s not just the deluge of Black Friday orders that will keep the Dunfermline centre busy this festive period, the Fife site is the place for all those return items.
“You can imagine during Christmas all those items that may need to be returned or exchanged, well they all come here,” said Jamie.
“It’s just another aspect of what we spend all year planning for and the reason we hire that extra 1,000 plus staff that will work with us right through until the new year.”
Love it or loath it, online shopping is more popular than ever and here to stay.
Spare a though then for Amazon’s army of staff in Fife who’ll be working away to ensure you have one less thing to worry about in these most uncertain of times.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe