CamperForce Receive Dept. Job Descriptions

Today's pics are leftovers from last week's outing to Fort Richardson and Lake Mineral Wells. This is the morgue at Fort Richardson.

Today’s pics are leftovers from last week’s outing to Fort Richardson and Lake Mineral Wells. This is the morgue at Fort Richardson.

Four weeks of CamperForce are in the bag and six more remain. In the Receive department where I’m working here in Haslet, TX, everyone continues to be on 55 hours a week mandatory although for CamperForce that’s only 50 hours mandatory as we have to work that 5th day, but do not have to work the 11th hour every day (but they’d sure like us to work those extra five hours).

Other Inbound departments are now working mandatory overtime as well and Outbound is starting to pick up too. After Thanksgiving the tables will turn and Outbound should be the busier half of the workforce as all the stuff we’ve been cramming into the warehouse starts flying off the shelves to get to people’s houses in time for Christmas.

A few weeks ago I said I’d report more on the Receiving job as this is my first time working in this department, and that I shall. I’ve actually worked no fewer than five different jobs while I’ve been here, which makes me a happy girl because variety really breaks up the monotony of a long work week. There are a couple more I haven’t worked, but have talked to fellow campers who have.

Ready? First, the disclaimer: 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.

Okay, here we go!

Dock

The first people who come into contact with new product entering the warehouse are the dock workers, and while I haven’t worked on the dock myself (it’s mostly guys, there is a lot of lifting) a couple work-campers have and have told me a little about it.

Pallet jacks and fork lifts are used to take the boxes on pallets out of the backs of semis into the warehouse where it is sorted into two or possibly three piles depending on where it came from–direct from a vendor, or transshipment from another Amazon facility.

Sometimes, a whole pallet will be the same product and in that case it stays on the pallet and gets stowed like that to keep it all together. Other boxes are taken off the pallet and loaded onto a line where a case sticker is applied to the box by a machine to keep track of it, and I think to virtually assign to that box the product that is physically in it, but again I’m not positive as I haven’t worked this area myself.

An old bridge that was moved to Fort Richardson. It doesn't span anything.

An old bridge that was moved to Fort Richardson. It doesn’t span anything.

Line Loader

Once the box has a case sticker, it’s someone’s job to load it onto the correct receiving line. One of my neighbors in the campground got stuck in this position for a couple days and he says it’s one of the most boring jobs ever. The boxes come by on a loading line, and you pick up the box, turn around, and set it down on the receive line. Rinse and repeat for ten (or eleven) hours.

Receive Line

Most temporary help that works in the Receive department works on the receive line (lines actually, Haslet has six receive lines total). Computer stations are set up on both sides of a conveyer with boxes coming down it from the dock. You scan an empty tote that you have in a stack at your station, pull a box off the conveyer and scan the case label to tell the computer what items that box has, then you open the box with a box cutter.

If the box came from a vendor, you have to scan each item to receive it individually, moving it into your tote as you do so. If the box came from a trusted source (another Amazon facility from what I can tell), you don’t have to scan each item’s barcode but just empty the whole box into your tote. You should be checking items as you pull them out to make sure they’re in good shape and check that the description of the item that pops up on the screen is a match for the actual item.

After the box is empty or the tote is full, you close out the tote and either load it onto a cart at your station, or stick it on another conveyer depending on which line you’re working on. Then you move on to the next tote or next box.

Water Spider

At the Coffeyville facility my first year I worked as a water spider a time or two in the stow department, the job is similar here. Water spiders get the supplies needed (like totes, carts, tape, etc.) for the folks on the receive line so that they never need to leave their station. This job has the most walking of the Receive jobs, you’re always in motion running errands essentially. I’ve done this job several times and while it can get exhausting doing it for 10+ hours, if you’re looking for exercise this is the position that gets it.

I couldn’t tell you why the job is called water spidering, nobody I’ve talked to knows.

Prep

Sometimes a box comes down the receive line that is flagged in the computer for prep, meaning it needs special handling of some sort before it can be received. Those boxes are loaded onto a cart and taken to the prep department.

Sometimes, the items are fragile and need bubble wrapping or boxing. Sometimes they’re bottles of liquid that need to be put in a bag in case of leakage. Sometimes they’re items that need to be packaged together to make a set, or items that require some assembly.

Prep stations are set up with a computer, cart, and totes like the receive line, but they also have bubble wrap, boxes, and various sized bags to complete the above tasks in addition to receiving the item. While it’s mostly men on the dock, it’s mostly women in prep, I’ve worked in this department several times and if you like wrapping gifts and the like it can be fun.

A fishing pier at Lake Mineral Wells

A fishing pier at Lake Mineral Wells

Problem Solver

This is the first year in my time with CamperForce that I’ve seen campers trained to be problem solvers, traditionally this job was solely in the realm of the full-time Amazonians.

Problem solvers get a laptop on a little cart that they wheel around to people on the receive line who’re having a problem. Maybe what the computer thinks is in the box isn’t what’s actually in the box, or the case label isn’t scanning, or the receiver accidentally entered the wrong number of items into their tote. It’s the problem solver’s job to fix these issues and more.

(Note, the stow department has problem solvers too.)

Ambassador

An ambassador is a trainer. They do safety school with the new hires and give them the tour of the warehouse, then take them back to the department they’ll be working in (Receive in this case) and show them how to do the job. When there are no new hires to train, they’ll work on the line the same as any other worker, but they have a yellow vest that marks them out so if anyone on the line has questions they can seek them out.

At the end of my very first week I was asked if I’d be interested in being an Ambassador because of my previous experience, but I turned the offer down because I hardly knew the warehouse or the job at that point and I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of having to switch shifts (a possibility, not a certainty). As far as I know, problem solvers and ambassadors make no more per hour than any other job.

A tree reaching up through Penitentiary Hollow

A tree reaching up through Penitentiary Hollow

The end of the line

After the product is received and in totes, prepped if necessary and hopefully without any problems that needed solving, it’s someone’s job to get the totes to the stowers who’ll be putting it on shelves.

If the totes are on a cart, the carts might be loaded on an automated PIT (powered industrial truck) that whisks them away to a stow location, or loaded on the elevators to take them to a higher floor to be stowed. If they came down a tote conveyer, they need to be loaded onto a pallet at the end of the receive line before they can be moved.

My very first full length day, I was told to wrap these pallets at the end of the receive lines so they could be safely put on the elevator without fear of totes falling. I had a gigantic tube of cling wrap loaded onto this crazy pole, and I ran circles around pallets for ten hours. When the tube of cling wrap was used up, I’d load the next one the other way so I could run the opposite direction for a little variety. When there were no pallets to wrap, I’d stand there leaning on my absurd cling-wrap-staff at the end of the receive line watching everyone else work and feeling mighty silly.

And there you have it! I hope you’ve all enjoyed this description of various Receive department jobs and that it’ll help those of you thinking of trying CamperForce in the future. Remember, all of my articles about Amazon’s CamperForce can be found here if you’re looking for more information. Have a good weekend all!

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For those who don’t follow the comments section, a reader posted a link at the end of my last CamperForce post to a YouTube video of how the KIVA robots work. You can check that out here.

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27 Responses to CamperForce Receive Dept. Job Descriptions

  1. Jerry Minchey November 13, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    That was a very informative post, Becky. Thanks for letting us know more about what you actually do.

    You and your team have been doing a great job because when I ship boxes of items to Amazon, they are available for sale almost immediately. I’ve been shipping a lot of products to Amazon and so far everything has worked flawlessly.

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      Glad everything has been going smoothly Jerry. 🙂

      It’s not very exciting working at Amazon, but it’ll pay off later!

  2. Craig November 14, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    Becky, we have “water spiders” at the factory i work in and they perform similar tasks to the water spiders at Amazon. The term “water spider” (or “mizusumashi”) comes from Japanese (specifiacally Toyota, I think) lean manufacturing concepts. The reason for the name is that a water spider skims along the surface of the water darting along all over the place without ever diving down into the water (or the work area in the analogy). We, too, thought it was an unusual job title until it was explained to us.

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

      Interesting Craig! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sandy November 14, 2015 at 5:19 am #

    Thanks for the wonderful insights, as usual. Through you, we get the facts…the pure, unadulterated truth. Not just about working on the road, but also about being a mindful, human being. Just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for this and the rest of your wonderful blog content.

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

      You’re very welcome Sandy, I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed my blog and found it helpful and inspiring. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  4. Barb and Mike November 14, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    Great info…we are a bit envious of your lifestyle. Keep us drooling with your writing!

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

      Well Barb and Mike, not sure you’d be envious of the Amazon jobs (it’s the least fun part of my year I’d say), but it’s really not a bad place to work despite how the media sometimes portrays it and it allows me to take a decent “vacation” for the rest of the winter. 🙂

  5. Terri November 14, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    Thank you so much for this, Becky. I definitely think if I go nomadic one day and end up at Amazon, Water Spider will be the job for me!

    I love the image of you standing there near the big cling wrap staff, that’s cute. Just think of all that overtime adding up – I know it’s probably making you tired right now, but that check is going to be super awesome when it lands in your bank account!

    As always, thanks for the honesty and candor in your posts. This is super helpful to those of us who are considering doing what you are already doing. And the pics are cool too!
    Terri recently posted..Observations and Thoughts While Hiking Zion National Park’s Observation Point TrailMy Profile

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

      Glad you found this helpful Terri!

      Water spidering is neat because you interact with more people and you get to see the fruit of your labors more directly, if that makes sense. When you’re on the line receiving your customers aren’t there to say “thank you”, but when you’re water spidering they are because your customers are the line workers. 🙂

      Yes, the paychecks have been good! Most of yesterday’s paycheck is going to boondocking equipment but that’s just fine, I’m looking at it like Amazon is paying me in solar gear instead of money that week, haha!

  6. Dawn from Camano Island November 14, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Good morning, Becky! Thank you for this informative post–it certainly gives me a new appreciation for the process those of you working at Amazon go through to get packages to our front door! Eternal thanks for all your hard work & efficiency–you make life so much easier for us! Now I know why you treasure your days off!

    Jim asked if you are paid overtime for more than 40 hours of work…that’s the union man in him coming out.

    Love your other photos too–especially the one with that lone tree stuck between a rock and…another rock!

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

      Yeah, that tree was between a rock and a hard place for sure. 😉

      Yes, it’s time and a half for everything over 40 hours so my paychecks are pretty sweet right now. I actually make more at Amazon during peak than I ever made as a vet tech, even with the degrees and certifications and experience I had.

  7. Rob November 14, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Nice post, thanks.
    When you were shrink wrapping the pallets using that ‘pole’ did you have to bend down to get the bottom wrapped? Poorly worded… Is wrapping those pallets hard on your back or does the pole do the bending over part?
    I hate wrapping pallets manually…

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

      You’re welcome.

      The pole does the bending over part, you flip the staff around so the wrap is at the bottom and run around. It works pretty slick actually Rob.

      • chuck December 10, 2015 at 4:39 am #

        Becky where I used to work we had a machine that
        when a pallet was set on it would turn once you got
        the cling wrap started and would wrap the pallet without
        having to run around it…good to see ya’ll do it the old
        fashion way…:)
        chuck

        • Becky December 11, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

          Oh, Amazon has at least one of those too that I’ve seen but they’re reserved for “heavy duty” wrapping, for pallets getting shipped out. Ones going to another floor don’t need to be as tightly done so we do them.

  8. Jim@HiTek November 14, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    Brought back memories, Becky. You might remember I worked as an Amazon picker 2 winters ago up in Fernley. It didn’t turn out as delightful as I’d hoped the job might. Oh, well.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Rogue River Jet Boat Tour…My Profile

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

      Haha, it’s not a delightful job Jim, it’s a money-making job. 🙂

      I’ve never been a picker, and I’ve asked several times because I think I’d be pretty good at it but Inbound has always needed the people more on my start date.

      • Jim@HiTek November 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

        Once you get a rhythm going it’s pretty easy. It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to minimize my walking distance. The problem was the computer would send me back and forth, up and down, in the warehouse so often that my poor flat feet couldn’t take it and I’d have to leave work earlier and earlier as the week progressed. One of your readers, Deb I think, asked if they make accommodations for situations…in my case, with flat feet that no amount of excellent shoes or shoe inserts would help, NO, they wouldn’t. But, they never fired me, even though I’d punch out earlier and earlier each day as the week dragged on. My feet just couldn’t take it and I went ahead and quit. Not sure they’d ever have fired me.
        Jim@HiTek recently posted..Rogue River Jet Boat Tour…My Profile

  9. Deb November 14, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    Nice informational post Becky, thanks for keep your readers in the know. Hubby & I have been FT RVers for the past 4 years, we have thought of given Amazon a try, but always wonder what happens if a position is just too rough on the body or feet and couln’t hold up to the long shifts on contrete. Does Amazon try to find an area that could help your needs or just release you from duty (aka fired)? Wouldn’t it be nice if Amazon would rotate task during the shift to help break up the shift and keep employees fresh. Keep the positive attitude and know you only have 5 more weeks!

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

      You’re welcome Deb.

      It’s nearly impossible to get transferred out of the department you’re assigned to on your start date, at least while things are busy in that department but when the seesaw tilts the other way and Outbound gets busier some people from Inbound will be trained for Outbound and switch.

      But one nice thing about Receive, is all of those jobs I listed are an option and people do rotate between them. Many of the campers aren’t fit enough to be water spiders for instance and are able to request not to be put in that position.

      Occasionally I’ll work multiple positions in the same day, it really depends on where the work load is the heaviest, but you can’t count on it. It wouldn’t be very efficient to have people switching jobs often.

  10. Rene Kipp November 14, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    I worked at a local drug store for just over 10 years in my youth. Most of those years were in the receiving department. Although on a much smaller scale compared to Amazon, the jobs are similar to what you’re doing at Amazon. I’m glad you’re able to do various positions throughout your work week as it sure would be boring and possibly tiring to do the same job each day.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Tougher Than We Thought!My Profile

    • Becky November 14, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      It would get boring Rene. I’ve found I don’t really have a favorite job, I most like one I haven’t done in a while, hehe.

  11. Ernesto Quintero November 14, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    “I had a gigantic tube of cling wrap loaded onto this crazy pole, and I ran circles around pallets for ten hours.” – – lol – I picture a Lonny Tunes cartoon character running in circles with a comical music track. Keep on writing your wonderful post’s. Be safe.

    • Becky November 18, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      That wasn’t too far from the truth Ernesto, I could have used that music track, keep me occupied. 😉

  12. Joe December 10, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    Hi Becky, could you tell me how far the campsite is from work ? I travel with a big dog , would I be able to visit him and walk him during the work day? Thanks, joe

    • Becky December 11, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

      At the Haslet site Joe the closest campground is 12 miles away, not close enough to run back to the RV during your lunch break I’m afraid considering traffic, congested parking lots, and the security stations. Maybe one of the other sites has closer campgrounds though? Could poke around in RV forums, those usually have a thread or two about CamperForce.

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