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Arlington’s Amazon fulfillment center revs up staffing for Holidays

ARLINGTON, Wash., December 4, 2023—It’s been three months since Amazon opened Washington’s largest fulfillment distribution center in Arlington, but the warehouse is still far from fully staffed as it enters its first bustling holiday season and is looking to add to its team!

The center currently has around 1,900 staff members, in addition to its management team, but is only about 55% of its target capacity, Bruno Arnal, the building’s General Manger told the Lynnwood Times.

“We still have a long way to go. Every week we are still hiring, and we still have incentive for new employees to come in the building,” said Arnal. “It’s still ramping up.”

Amazon fulfillment center
Bruno Arnal, General Manager for Amazon’s PAE2, speaking to the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The incentive mentioned is a $3,000 hiring bonus as well as competitive wages and benefits. The center is only looking for full-time positions currently to gear up for an ambitious first quarter pipeline coming out of the holiday season. According to the company’s current job openings a position at the facility pays around $20 an hour. Full benefits kick in on day one of hiring and by day 90 the company even pays college tuition assistance.

It’s one of Amazon’s priorities, when staffing, to ensure a diverse and equitable workplace, Arnal added encouraging anyone and anyone to apply and training staff to operate in a “very inclusive way.”

“Walking the floor each and every day it’s a success to see how diverse our workforce is, and how healthy it is” said Arnal.

The PAE2 center, named after nearby Paine Field Airport, has been consistently hiring since launch but Arnal said it’s a passion project to continue preparing his workers for the next steps of their career.

Amazon fulfillment center
Amazon employees at its Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility in Arlington, Washington. Phot courtesy of Amazon.

A big focus of the center lately has been an emphasis on training both new employees and existing employees for promotion – either to trainers themselves or robotics specialists, ensuring the 24 Robin Arms, 950 P-Drives, and 3,800 H-Drive robotics healthily carry out their duty of moving, sorting, and scanning packages for distribution.

In just the last three months 24 entry level employees have been promoted to Processing Assistants, six Processing Assistants have been promoted to Manager, and one Area Manager has been promoted to Operations Manager. Promotion opportunities also exist for those interested in entering the company’s corporate offices.

“Almost everyone who came in three months ago is wearing a new vest,” said Arnal. “You want to make sure that when the volume comes you have enough skilled employees to complete complex tasks…I have employees who were seasonal associates eight, nine, years ago who are now leading a team of over 800 employees.”

To prepare for the holidays, from a management perspective, Arnal said it takes “a lot of reviewing how the building will react to the volume coming in.”

Amazon fulfillment center
Inside Amazon’s Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility in Arlington, Washington on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Arnal and his management team do their best to create a fun working environment throughout the holiday season with weekly “snack attacks” (giving snacks to teammates as a token of appreciation for their hard work), treasure hunts, raffles, and costume days. The center also hosted a free hot meal day, in partnership with Everett’s Angel of the Winds arena, to provide a free hot meal to each of its nearly 2,000 employees.

“Hiring, upscaling, and bringing the fun I would say is [holiday season] preparation for us,” said Arnal. “Because it’s a new launch in a very good location we have room to grow and upscale a lot of leaders.” 

Amazon fulfillment center
Inside Amazon’s Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility in Arlington, Washington on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The company said it’s hard to tell just how much the volume increases during the holidays, mainly because the center has made the decision to cap its numbers to ensure deliveries are on time and accurate. The exact number of that capacity the company was not able to say exactly but, in order to contextualize the increase, Leigh Anne Gullet, Amazon Communications Director, said Amazon’s fulfillment center in Kent does anywhere from one-and-a-half to two times its typical volume this time of year.

“It’s making sure that everything is working well instead of taking too many customer orders and taking the risk of being late or not of the right quality,” said Arnal.

Since opening last September, the fulfillment center has undergone some finetuning to adjust to volume which is to be expected when launching a new building, the online retailer said.

“Once peak time is finished, I’m excited for Q1 to start but right now it’s trying to deliver products to customers as quickly as we can,” said Arnal. “I’m managing my managers to take care of their workforce and that’s my number one missions statement. I don’t believe in a building where mission number one is not to take care of the people.”

Amazon fulfillment center
Amazon employees at its Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility in Arlington, Washington on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Amazon’s PAE2 facility, located at 4620 172nd Street Northeast in Arlington, opened its doors September 14. At 100-feet high, and nearly 3 million square feet, it is Amazon’s largest fulfillment center in Washington with 21,000 tons of structural steel (enough to build three Eiffel Towers). The building also has 52 docks and parking for approximately 1,245 vehicles. At the time of opening the company said it created 1,000 jobs for the region.

The fulfillment center is an Amazon Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility, essentially the “first mile” where customers orders are picked up and packed. The site can hold up to 40 million units of inventory, typically a wide range of household goods with each item weighing less than 25 pounds and no more than 18 inches long, wide, or tall.

Amazon fulfillment center
Bruno Arnal, General Manager for Amazon’s PAE2, speaking with reporters on inner workings of his Amazon Robotics Sortable (ARS) facility on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The company said the use of robotics is to ease the physical labor of employees, prioritizing safety above all else. At the time of the building’s opening the company had already invested over $550 million in safety improvements across its network.

“This is so vital for our future,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “I’m very excited about the partnership with Amazon to build the workforce for the future.”

Amazon fulfillment center
(L-R) Arlington City Council Heather Logan, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Council Councilman Sam Low attending the ribbon cutting of the Amazon fulfillment center in Arlington, Washington on September 14, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Arlington’s Amazon FC is Snohomish County’s third warehouse. In 2017 it opened a 92,000 square foot warehouse in South Everett and in 2019 it leased the lion’s share of a building developed by Panattoni, a 204,498-square-foot facility at the Riverside Business Park in northeast Everett.

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