Amazon | Behind the scenes at Prime Day in Montreal

On the first day of this 48-hour event, Tuesday, The press received a rare tour of the American e-commerce giant’s Lachine Center. On the menu: truck choreography, artificial intelligence taking care of everything, and a surprisingly zen vibe.

Posted at 7:00 am

Karim Benessaieh

Karim Benessaieh
The press

Patrick Sanfacon

Patrick Sanfacon
The press


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Opened in October 2021, the Lachine delivery center bears the unpoetic name DXT6. Amazon has two other centers of this type in Quebec, in Laval, which represent the final stage before delivery to the customer. “Anything that comes in here at night comes out at the end of the day,” explains Véronique Cantin, Regional Director of Operations. These packages come from distribution centers such as neighboring facilities in Lachine, called YUL2, from Brampton in the Toronto suburbs, or from Boston.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

The approximately 500 employees here will label, sort and route more than 500,000 already packed packages per week, 24 hours a day, 950,000 for special occasions such as Prime Day or the Christmas season. Everything from receiving the parcels to sending them is recorded, every step is digitized and the information is sent to a system where an artificial intelligence is active to create routes for the delivery people. Any errors are recognized quickly, the code reader displays an error in red.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

The system still has its unforeseen circumstances. Packages sometimes cannot be delivered within 24 hours as promised to Prime subscribers. Customer returns will not be recirculated and sent back to fulfillment centers. Sometimes, in Lachine, certain liquid products have ended up on other packages, which are then considered unsaleable, even if they are hardly contaminated. “Last week we donated $30,000 of these products to charity,” says Ms.me Canteen.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Unlike Brampton’s ultra-robotic facilities, the Lachine center has very little machine handling. Packages weighing up to 22 kg are collected in cages by employees without haste. In fact, the atmosphere is surprisingly zen. “If everything is well planned, there is no need to squeeze employees,” explains Alexandre Bourcier, Senior Operations Manager. Sounds complicated, but it’s the same system everywhere in the company. Running is prohibited on Amazon. »


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Often accused of anti-union practices linked to inhumane productivity demands, Amazon does not have a good press when it comes to workers’ rights. An unfair reputation, say the managers interviewed, who recall that hourly wages start at $18 and the employer pays for health and dental insurance. “We have a huge budget for engagement activities, games, competitions, meals, we push a lot so people have access to internal promotions,” says Véronique Cantin.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

The highlight of the show in Lachine is the choreography of the Amazon vans. In a huge hangar that looks like a runway, vehicles drive in waves of 20 from 10 a.m., controlled by a pilot. Every driver knows where to park and which parcel box is reserved for them. He has 20 minutes to stack the boxes in his van and drive down the “route” devised for him by artificial intelligence.

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