The Amazon Fulfillment Center Associate Job Explained | GigWolf (2024)

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

Amazon fulfillment center warehouse associates are entry-level employees that work at large Amazon warehouses called fulfillment centers (FCs).

When you place an order on Amazon, it goes straight to a fulfillment center. There, Amazon workers pick your items from the warehouse inventory, package them, and send them off to other warehouses called sortation centers and delivery stations (this post won’t cover those or their similar-sounding “Amazon Sortation Center Warehouse Associate” and “Amazon Delivery Station Warehouse Associate” positions).

As a Fulfillment Center Associate, you’ll help make sure that this vital first step in Amazon’s order process goes smoothly.

What is an Amazon fulfillment center?

An Amazon fulfillment center is a type of warehouse where Amazon orders are fulfilled. FCs stock inventory, receive orders, package them, and send them off for shipping.

There are over 100 Amazon FCs worldwide, most of which are located in the United States. Some fulfillment centers are partially automated and are known as Amazon Robotic Fulfillment Centers (ARFCs). ARFCs serve the same function as non-automated FCs, but use robotics to speed up the workflow and optimize efficiency. As a FC warehouse associate, you may find yourself working in either a regular FC or an ARFC.

Some FCs may also include XL warehouses (for oversized items) and print-on-demand (POD) facilities.

FCs offer roles at several different levels, ranging from Tier 1 (T1) to Level 8 (L8), with roles like picker, packer, process assistant, operations managers, and more — we’ll detail a bunch of these further down.

What is a fulfillment center associate?

The job title of “Amazon Fulfillment Center Warehouse Associate” (FC associate) refers to an employee that works a Tier 1 (T1) job at an Amazon fulfillment center (FC). T1 jobs are entry-level positions — positions that you can apply to without prior work experience in the industry. Amazon employees that have jobs above T1 (i.e. T3 or higher; there is no T2) are not called associates. However, to help foster community, everyone in the building is called an Amazonian.

What do FC associates do for a fulfillment center?

As an FC associate, you’ll work opening boxes, retrieving items from inventory, placing items in boxes, placing boxes on conveyor belts, and doing other similar tasks. Each of these steps in the FC process is its own job, and you might find yourself working in any one of them and switching roles over the course of your time as an FC associate.

When you apply to work as an FC associate, you can’t choose which specific role you want — you’ll be assigned a role based on your local facility’s current needs during your hiring process. Most of the time, you’ll start out working as a picker, stower, packer, or decanter — we’ll cover what those terms mean further down.

Over time, you may be trained in other roles, and you can ask your manager to switch roles if there’s a task you’re particularly interested in or if you have any medical issues that may make other jobs more difficult. But sometimes it can be hard to convince your manager to switch your role — especially if you’re good at it!

Many roles at FCs require moving around and being on your feet for long hours, but they’re usually not particularly strenuous. You may be required to use step ladders and equipment like pallet jacks, but you won’t need to lift anything heavier than 49 pounds.

Alex Rodriguez, who has been working in an FC for two years, says “Safety shoes are also a requirement at FCs. These shoes have a composite or steel toe which protect the feet from any potential hazards. Keep in mind that these shoes are heavier than normal shoes, which can add extra weight to the feet. Mitigate this by not only investing in well-fitting shoes, but also insoles. Amazon will provide a $120 credit yearly for safety shoes and/or insoles through their partner, Zappos.”

If you have further restrictions due to a medical condition, Amazon will usually be able to accommodate you. Ismael Flores, who has been working at an FC for three years, says “you may need a doctor’s note. But in my experience, if you maintain a good relationship with your team leaders and communicate your issue, they will accommodate.”

FC associates can choose between part-time, reduced-time, full-time, or seasonal work. You can expect to work 10-hour shifts with a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks, but shift times range from 6 to 12 hours in some cases.

There is also a Flex Time option, which allows you to choose your shifts on a week-by-week basis. Each week, a list of all available shifts that you can sign up for will be added to the A to Z app (you’ll sign up for this once you’re hired). You can either work Flex part-time, which requires you to work a minimum of 4 hours per week, or Flex reduced-time, which has a minimum requirement of 30 hours per week.

All FC associates get raises on a set schedule called a Step Plan. The amount of time it takes to get a pay raise varies depending on the location and employment status (part-time, full-time, etc.). Typically, you can expect a promotion every six months or every year. How much your pay increases also depends on your location.

If you’d like to move up the ladder and into a Tier 3 or higher position, you can apply at any time. However, you’re more likely to get hired at T3+ if you’ve already been working T1 for at least one year. As an Amazon employee, you’ll also have access to internal job boards, where you can find postings for positions that aren’t publicly available.

Amazon FC associates typically make between $17 and $20 per hour.

What’s a more specific job description of being a fulfillment center associate?

There are two broad categories of roles that you might find yourself working in: direct and indirect roles.

Direct roles are the most common roles in Amazon warehouses and have specific benchmarks you need to meet (“making rate”). These rates are measured directly — hence the name. For example, as a packer, you might need to pack 70 units per hour (UPH) to meet your goal and make rate.

In California, there are no mandatory rates — you’re simply encouraged to meet the goals that are set out for you.

Indirect roles are not measured directly and don’t have rates you need to meet — your goal here is to either support associates in direct roles or work on troubleshooting issues.

Let’s dig into the different roles you might work in as an Amazon FC associate.

Receive Dock

Receive dock workers unload boxes from trucks and Amazon trailers and place them on conveyor belts. Sometimes, you’ll need to move boxes around on the belts to make sure they’re spaced out enough to avoid congestion and jams.

This is a direct role.

Decant

Decant workers take the boxes from receive dock off the conveyor belt, open them up, and put their contents into a yellow bin called a tote. You’ll be stationary in this role, but you should expect to be dealing with a lot of large boxes. Decant can be a pretty fast-paced job when things get busy — if you move too slowly, you can cause a warehouse-wide backup.

This is a direct role.

Stow

Stowers in ARFCs take items out of totes and place them in automated shelving units called pods (imagine a four-sided yellow shelf that’s attached to a Roomba, and you’ll be pretty close). The pods will drive themselves to your station and rotate so that the correct side is facing you. There’s a lot of walking back and forth involved, and you’ll need to be comfortable using a step ladder to reach high shelves. If you’re not in an ARFC, there will be even more walking required — you’ll need to walk longer distances to get to the right storage location.

This is a direct role.

Picking

Pickers grab specified items from the pods and place them in totes — basically, stowing in reverse. This is one of the least physically demanding roles in an FC, but you may need to lift heavy objects from time to time (no more than 49 lbs). In ARFCs, the pods come to you, so there’s hardly any walking involved, but in non-automated FCs, you’ll spend a lot of time walking around trying to find inventory. In some warehouses, you may also need to use a specialized piece of heavy machinery called an operating picker, which is sort of like a driveable elevator. Operating pickers reach up to 32 feet in the air, so this can be a tough job if you’re afraid of heights.

This is a direct role.

Forklift Operator

Forklift operators use forklifts to retrieve large and heavy items. If you get hired for this role, Amazon will provide forklift training and certification for you. There’s no pay raise for getting certified, but Amazon will cover the cost of the certification and training.

This is a direct role.

Counting

Counters are tasked with counting the number of items that are in the compartments of a pod. It’s a straightforward role, but you’ll need to be accurate — there’s very little room for error before you’ll get called in for documented coachings.

This is a direct role.

Induct

Inductors work at a standalone station at the top of a staircase called induct. There are two conveyor belts at the station: one with totes full of items from the pickers, and another with empty trays that will be sent off to rebinners down below. Your job is to transfer items from the totes into the trays.

This is a direct role.

Rebinning

Rebinners pick up the baton from induct and pass it on to pack. In some facilities, rebinners also do the work of the inductors. If your FC has a separate inductor, then you’ll receive totes full of items from them. In both cases, you’ll need to sort the items into pods so that packers can pack them up.

This is a direct role.

Packing

Packers pack orders into boxes. You’ll need to build boxes and prepare envelopes, place items in them, add the specified packing materials, seal them, apply the SP00 label (pronounced “spoo” — it’s a barcode sticker that contains all the package info), add packing materials, and finally place them on a conveyor belt that will take them to the next station.

This is a direct role.

Waterspider

Waterspiders support other Amazon associates. The term “waterspider” has origins in Japanese manufacturing and alludes to how these workers are constantly moving from place to place, just like a spider skimming over the water.

The precise tasks you’ll carry out will depend on which role you’re supporting. For example, if you’re waterspidering for stow, you might be stacking totes, loading totes onto pallet jacks, moving them to stow stations, and unloading them. But if you’re waterspidering for packers, you’ll be supplying them with cardboard boxes, tape, and other packing materials.

This is an indirect role and it’s widely considered to be one of the hardest and most physically demanding roles at an FC. However, that all depends on your personality. Ismael says “it can be the most fun positions too. It's a workout, which can be a positive for many people. It makes time go by so much quicker than any other position. It is also the most social position. Since the waterspider is going to every station and communicating with managers, they will have an opportunity to meet many people.”

This is an indirect role.

Problem Solving

Problem solvers are tasked with solving issues that occur at various points in the FC process. This is one of the most sought-after roles at an FC because it requires a lot of critical thinking, there’s a lot of variety, and you get to use a computer.

Problem solvers have a lot more control over how they do their job than other associates do. They can make their job very social, moving from station to station, like a waterspider, or they can hole themselves up in a corner and do their work alone. As long as the work gets done, problem solvers can do it however they want.

Plus, if you work in problem solve, you can move into other locations in the FC, like Damageland, where you’ll process damaged goods, and ISS, where you’ll fix system errors.

This is an indirect role.

SLAM

SLAM operators work with the SLAM machine. SLAM stands for “Scan, Label, Apply, Manifest.” Packages come down the conveyor belt from packing and go to the SLAM machine, which reads the SP00 sticker to grab the package info and verifies the right items are inside by weighing the package and cross checking the expected versus actual weight. If there’s a problem, the package will be kicked out of the conveyor belt, and it will be your job to identify the problem and fix it.

Inbound flats workers have almost exactly the same role as SLAM operators, but you’ll only be working with small packages called “flats.”

These are both indirect roles.

Print-on-Demand

Print-on-demand workers help fulfill Amazon’s print-on-demand orders. Not all FCs have POD centers, but if you find yourself working at one that does, you might be trained in the role of book binder, book cutter, loading dock worker, maintenance worker, or waterspider. We’ll cover these specific roles in another post.

Get started

Can you see yourself as an Amazonian? Apply now to a position near you.

The Amazon Fulfillment Center Associate Job Explained |
  GigWolf (2024)

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