Environmentally conscious Amazonians work together to implement environmental and energy initiatives across all parts of the company through the Kaizen program, named for the Japanese term meaning "change for the better". Amazon employees at all levels dive deep into every nook and cranny of a process to identify waste and design alternative solutions that are more energy efficient.
The power of the Earth Kaizens comes from the cumulative impact of many people participating in a large number of focused projects, each delivering reductions in energy consumption and waste. The energy savings from a single Kaizen project may not seem significant, but shared across our global network, they can produce meaningful results.
Here are a few examples:
Milton Keynes, EnglandGourock, ScotlandSwansea, Wales
Amazon receives new inventory every day from vendors across the world. Typically, this inventory is delivered in cardboard boxes, which is recycled once the products are shelved. In 2009, an Earth Kaizen team began working with vendors to deliver the products in reusable totes, rather than cardboard boxes, in order to eliminate waste and cost for both parties. As a result, one out of ten inventory deliveries to our UK fulfilment centres are now dispatched without excess packaging waste.
During the planning process before opening Amazon’s Swansea, Wales fulfilment centre, an Earth Kaizen team worked with the management team to determine the most efficient ways to light the facility. First, the team decided to increase the size of the skylights and windows throughout the building to improve natural lighting in the work areas. Second, the team had motion sensors installed throughout the facility so that lighting was used only when needed. As a result, the fulfilment centre now uses 40% fewer kilowatt-hours of power each month than originally planned.
Bad Hersfeld, Germany
The Earth Kaizen team in our Bad Hersfeld, Germany, fulfilment centre determined that the high-rack and pallet area of their facility was being lit long before the first associates arrived for work. Working with the local facilities technicians, the team developed a process to turn on the 2,400 fluorescent lights in the area only when associates were working. Their efforts resulted in an annual reduction of over 10,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage in the facility.
Amazonians in our Orleans, France, fulfilment centre previously disposed of all kinds of waste--from corrugate cardboard to plastics--in a single compactor. An Earth Kaizen team re-engineered the process to sort different kinds of waste into separate compactors, so that corrugates and plastics could be recycled. As a result, the facility now recovers more than 60% of its disposal costs by selling the corrugate and plastic to recycling vendors in France.
A complex system of conveyor belts is used in fulfilment centres to move products from their shelves into the boxes that are then shipped to Amazon customers. An Earth Kaizen team in our Ichikawa, Japan, fulfilment centre devised a simple but effective solution to reduce conveyor power usage by creating a visual guide that shows employees how to power down the conveyor belts when not in use, saving over 20,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage per year.
Associates in the Guangzhou, China, fulfilment centre receive products for Joyo Amazon customers from many vendors. Once the products were moved into the centre, the packaging materials were previously discarded. An Earth Kaizen team re-engineered the process for sorting packaging waste, so that cardboard boxes and packaging could be recycled. As a result, the facility now recycles more than 40,000 boxes and more than 8,000 kilogrammes of packing material per year.
Amazonians in our Lexington, Kentucky, fulfilment centre analysed the type of work performed in the bulk-storage area of the facility and learned that although a large portion of this area was not used during the weekend, the power remained on. Additionally, the team took light-level readings and determined that the area had too many lights installed for the type of work that associates were doing. As a result, over 120 lights were permanently shut off, and an additional 34 lights are turned off during the weekend. Their efforts resulted in an annual reduction of over 450,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage for this one facility; that's enough electricity to power 33 homes in Kentucky for an entire year.
At the Coffeyville, Kansas, fulfilment centre, conveyor belts are used throughout the facility to route orders through the packing and shipping process. Previously, the conveyor belts operated continuously while the facility was open. An Earth Kaizen team determined that timers could be installed on the conveyor belts, so that they automatically shut down when they weren't in use. As a result, the facility now uses 30% fewer kilowatt-hours of power usage to operate the conveyor belts.
Hebron/Campbellsville, KentuckyAllentown, Pennsylvania
Previously, when Amazon transferred products from its larger automated fulfilment centres to its network of smaller distribution centres, it shipped the products in single stacks of pallets loaded into trucks. Because Amazon's smaller distribution centres didn't normally use forklifts, they couldn't unload double-stacked shipments. After analysis by the Kaizen team, Amazon bought forklifts for the distribution centres allowing them to accept double-stacked pallets. Now each truck can carry twice as much cargo, resulting in an overall savings of 1.1 million miles travelled and more than 175,000 gallons of fuel.