What Is an Amazon Fulfillment Center & How Does It Work?

Introduction

It’s quite common for new Amazon sellers—or those interested in selling on the e-commerce platform—to often hear the term “Amazon FBA” thrown around. But what does this mean? FBA simply stands for Fulfillment by Amazon. Using FBA, Amazon allows you to send your products to an Amazon warehouse, where the company will then store, pick, pack, and fulfill all your orders for you. On the plus side, they’ll also take care of the sometimes stressful customer service for you!

As I mentioned above, whenever Amazon sellers choose to use FBA over Amazon FBM, they’ll send all their inventory over to one or more of Amazon’s fulfillment centers around the world.

In the below article, we’ll take a look at what an Amazon fulfillment center is and how it can potentially take your business to the next level.

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What Is an Amazon Fulfillment Center?

An Amazon fulfillment center is, quite simply, a massive warehouse where Amazon receives products from their sellers. For FBA sellers, Amazon will store, pick, pack, and ship these products to customers around the world.

These fulfillment centers play an integral role in how Amazon operates, and, with many spread out over the US and other countries around the world, Amazon can quickly deliver many products within only 2 or 3 days.

What Does A Fulfillment Center Do?

Easily allowing third-party sellers to leverage Amazon’s huge supply and logistics network for their growing businesses, Amazon fulfillment centers can do the following:

  • Receiving: FBA sellers can send their products to Amazon fulfillment centers, where they are scanned and stored until they are bought by customers.
  • Packing: Whenever an Amazon customer places an order for a specific product, the fulfillment center with that product will pick up the item from storage, pack it up, and ship it to that customer.
  • Shipping: Every fulfillment center across the world takes care of the entire shipping process themselves. This includes selecting the appropriate carrier and service level to printing labels and handing off each product to the appropriate shipping provider.
  • Customer Service: FBA sellers can also utilize Amazon’s exemplary customer service for their orders, which includes taking care of inquiries, returns, and other customer service issues.
  • Returns Processing: If a customer is dissatisfied with a product for any reason and returns it, then an Amazon fulfillment center—rather than the seller—will receive and process the return (although it’s best to avoid Amazon returns whenever possible). Depending on the overall quality of the returned product, it may be restocked, thrown away, or sent back to the seller.

When using fulfillment centers for their business, Amazon FBA sellers can effectively outsource many of the demands of Amazon selling, leaving them time to focus on other key aspects of their business (this may include product sourcing from Alibaba, PPC ads, and optimizing Amazon listings).

But that’s not all! Fulfillment centers can give FBA sellers Prime eligibility, help boost sales, give your item a better chance to be a top Amazon product, and give you access to millions of Amazon customers. Keep in mind, though, that there are seller fees associated with Amazon FBA, so be sure to research the entire process before jumping in.

How Do Fulfillment Centers Work?

Even though Amazon’s fulfillment network can be tricky to navigate, the steps below provide a quick rundown of how the process generally works.

  • Receiving and Storing Inventory: Products from many different third-party sellers are delivered to fulfillment centers where, upon arrival, they are checked, counted, and sorted. Then, they are stored within the warehouse until they are bought by Amazon customers.
  • Inventory Management: Using advanced technology to keep track of inventory (much like our Inventory Management tool for sellers), Amazon is able to provide accurate information about product availability to both sellers and customers.
  • Picking: Whenever an Amazon customer places an order, the fulfillment center will pick the specific product from their shelves. Then, Amazon utilizes a unique blend of human workers and robotic tools to fulfill those orders completely.
    • Amazon warehouse workers, to ensure accuracy, receive picking instructions on handheld devices that allow them to easily locate your item within each vast facility.
  • Packing: After the item is picked, it is then brought straight to the packing area. Here, each item is packaged based on both size and fragility.
    • The Amazon packing process is created in such a way that every item is protected during the shipping process without using excess material (which increases selling costs).
  • Shipping: Once the packing process is complete, the order is labeled and sorted based on a combination of shipping destination and choice of delivery option. This helps ensure that each package is delivered on time.
  • Returns Processing: Amazon fulfillment centers also take care of any potential customer returns. These particular items are inspected by Amazon and are either restocked in their warehouse, disposed of, or sent back to the seller.
  • Technology and Automation: Since Amazon has—and continues to—heavily invest in automating their fulfillment centers, the FBA selling process is only getting easier. In many Amazon warehouses, robots help human workers move shelves with products, optimize the overall layout of each warehouse, and assist with sorting and packing products.

How Much Do Amazon Fulfillment Centers Charge?

While Amazon does not disclose any specifics regarding fulfillment center fees or charges, some crucial points of interest surrounding fulfillment fees are widely known.

One of these is that Amazon typically charges fulfillment center fees to third-party sellers who currently use fulfillment center services. This service is known as Amazon FBA (fulfillment by Amazon). FBA fees sellers have to pay vary depending on their product’s size, weight, category, and sales price.

Other common fees include a per-unit order handling fee, a pick-and-pack fee (also per unit), and a weight handling fee that is based on the total weight of the product. Additional fees exist for product returns, removals, and monthly storage fees (although you can avoid Amazon storage fees). As a seller, you’ll have to pay these fees in exchange for Amazon picking, packing, shipping, and handling customer service for each of your products. Even with all these fees, this is still a great deal that many Amazon sellers utilize.

One final thing to note is that the above fees allow sellers to use Amazon’s incredibly robust fulfillment network to best effect instead of handling the many logistics themselves—which happens to Amazon FBM sellers.

How Many Fulfillment Centers Does Amazon Have?

Currently, Amazon has over 110 active fulfillment centers in the United States alone and more than 185 across the world. In the US, the states with the most fulfillment centers are California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

How to Find the Closest Amazon Fulfillment Center

To find the closest Amazon fulfillment center to you, simply:

Check the Order Details – After placing an Amazon order, you can check the order details to see where they will most likely specify what fulfillment center your package is coming from.

Look at the Tracking Information – After your order ships, the tracking information provided by Amazon will include the fulfillment center’s city and state. Sometimes, the specific address will be included, too.

Search Online – By searching online using a query such as “Amazon fulfillment centers near me,” you can potentially find a list of the fulfillment centers closest to you.

Check Local News/Reports – Local news programs will occasionally cover new fulfillment centers in your area, so be on the lookout for top stories if and when they appear.

Note Shipping Times – Pay careful attention to the order in which your Amazon products arrived. The ones delivered first most likely came from a nearby fulfillment center.

How to Ship to an Amazon Fulfillment Center

Get your products ready. Before sending your product to Amazon, you’ll need to ensure that it fully complies with Amazon’s requirements when it comes to prep, packaging materials, labeling, and more.

Create a shipping plan. To create a shipping plan, log in to Amazon Seller Central and head to the Shipping Queue section. Once there, you’ll be able to create a brand new shipping plan that indicates what products you’re sending to a fulfillment center and how many.

Get shipping labels. After your shipping plan is reviewed and approved by Amazon, you can start printing out shipping labels for your shipment. Your labels must contain the address of the Amazon fulfillment center and a unique barcode to correctly identify your shipment.

Prepare the boxes. Now, you should ensure that your products are properly packed into Amazon-approved boxes. Once this is done, add the shipping label to the outside of the box.

Send to Amazon. Arrange for your products to be sent to Amazon through a freight carrier. Additionally, your products will need to arrive at the fulfillment center within 2 weeks of you receiving the shipping labels.

Confirm shipment arrival. Once the shipment arrives at the Amazon fulfillment center, Amazon will both process and confirm its arrival. After this is done, the products you sent in will be eligible for FBA orders.

Conclusion

If you like the sound of Amazon fulfillment centers and the many advantages they offer—which often translates to more time and less stress for you—such as optimized operations, savings on shipping fees, rapid delivery times, and overall improved customer satisfaction, then this might be just the thing for you.

However, it’s important to remember that while parts of your business may be easier, you’ll still have to deal with a staggering amount of Amazon business needs that you might not have thought of before.

To help eliminate even more of these stressful hurdles, we highly recommend taking advantage of our digital seller tools that can help you find products to sell on Amazon, list those products, and even help you keep close track of your inventory.

Good luck on your Amazon seller journey to the top!

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Copywriter

A dedicated copywriter with nearly 4 years of experience, Josh works with Amazon sellers and helps his clients succeed on the platform.

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