Yesterday was my first day of work, orientation day at the new Amazon fulfillment center in Haslet, TX, near Fort Worth. Actually this facility isn’t new per-say, but it is new to the CamperForce program this year.
As always with my Amazon coverage, I’m going to focus on what’s different this fall from previous falls. I’ve written extensively about this program over the years, and if you’re looking for a good starting place you can read a good overview about CamperForce (which is updated regularly) here. At the end of that post are links to everything I’ve written about this job opportunity, this article will be listed there soon. I am not officially affiliated with Amazon in any way and this post reflects my personal experiences and opinions only. Information shared here can change without warning, thank you for understanding.
For starters, DFW7 (warehouses are named for the closest airport – Dallas/Fort Worth – and the order in which the building was made, meaning this was the seventh Amazon building near this airport to be made), is huge. It’s the largest Amazon warehouse in the world at 1.6 million square feet, spread out along four floors where Fernley and Coffeyville only had three. Luckily, it’s one massive rectangle and doesn’t have any additional buildings or wings which in theory should make it easier to navigate. We’ll see how that works out.
It’s also newer than the other two I’ve worked at. There are some little things that are different because of that; it’s cleaner, has some windows, and the AC works wonderfully (it got up to the mid 90’s yesterday, but inside I was comfortable with jeans). But the biggest change is the robots.
The Haslet site is the first and only (so far) CamperForce location that has robotics. I and other work-campers have speculated on what robots mean for the CamperForce program. One would think that as robots took over more and more of the work, that there would be less and less need for seasonal help. I think eventually that’ll prove true, but the day CamperForce is no longer needed is still a ways off. Despite it’s robots, Haslet will employ over 2,000 seasonal workers this peak, which will bring the total workforce at this warehouse to a staggering 5,000 people.
350 of those seasonal helpers are CamperForce, and Joni Johnson, the head of the program at this site (she was head at Fernley last year, nice lady), is already hard at work looking for ways to double that number for next year. She said during orientation that she received about 900 applications for the Haslet site in the first six weeks the job listing was up. That would explain why I got e-mails from a couple of you saying you never heard back after you sent in your application when usually CamperForce is scrambling to fill its slots.
The bottle neck is the campgrounds. There simply aren’t any full-hookup campgrounds near Haslet, and there is a limit to the distance people are willing to drive to get to and from work. About seven miles up the road from the warehouse is a racetrack that has a campground without hookups and when Joni approached them at the beginning of the year, they said they’d be willing to renovate the campground and put in hookups to service CamperForce. This was where I first put in to stay when I applied back in February, but they ran into problems when the county said their roads weren’t wide enough, and they needed to start over. The campground should be ready by next year, and that’ll give 250 more spaces to allow for a bigger work force.
New for orientation this season, Amazon is working on moving to a paperless system. Instead of filling out the W4, nondisclosure agreement, direct deposit slip, harassment and discrimination policies, etc. at orientation on paper this year, these documents were posted up online for us to fill out a couple days before orientation. Even the employee handbook is online this year. This makes for a quicker orientation experience, but could pose a problem for RVers who don’t have a computer or reliable internet at their campground. In our class of 30, only four people were unable to finish their documents online, and they were given access to computers at Amazon to finish them so it worked out alright.
So instead of having one full orientation day followed by Safety School the first part of the second day, we had orientation in the morning and safety school in the afternoon. When we all start our second day of work, we’ll jump right into learning our department.
For me, that’s Receiving. I’ve worked in Stow two years and ICQA one year, this’ll be a new department for me which is nice, I always like trying new things.
The Receiving job doesn’t look like it’ll be different from at other Amazon sites, but if you’re in Stow, Pick, or ICQA and are familiar with them from previous years, you’re in for a surprise. Instead of walking miles a day from product to product, you have a work station like a receiver or gift wrapper does, and the KIVA robots bring the shelves with the product on them to you.
Another difference is the number of shifts this location has. There are shifts starting every day of the week here, and numerous times of the day. My shift starts at 7 am (barring overtime) from Saturday through Tuesday, 10 hour days. There are day shifts that start at 6 am, a mid shift that starts at 11 am, and then night shifts that start at 7:30 pm. In my orientation class we had eight different shifts represented, it gets confusing fast. All the shifts are assigned a code (DL4 for mine) and you need to memorize that code, because that’s how the different shifts are referred to on the overtime bulletins displayed on TVs throughout the facility.
From what everyone says, this site is very fast-paced and busy. I’ll be reporting more on the Receiving job in a couple weeks once I’ve learned the ropes, and by that point I should have a pretty good idea what the managers and work environment is like here. Hope this helps those of you who are trying CamperForce for the first time this year, or are considering it for a future year.
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