Amazon ramps up robots at new western Sydney facility

Machines in Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Moorebank in Sydney. Picture: AAP
Machines in Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Moorebank in Sydney. Picture: AAP

US online behemoth Amazon envisages distributing more than a million parcels a day from its new $500 million distribution facility in Sydney’s west and it will introduce the largest army of its roboticised helpers in the southern hemisphere to get the job done.

The company is already shaking up the retail sector with renewed vigour in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which is accelerating the expansion of online purchasing and trading.

The long-awaited deal also showcases Amazon’s rising capacities in robotics with about 2000 of its specialist machines handling much of the parcel movement, and even helping human packers to organise the flow of goods inside the building that will span 22 rugby fields when complete in late 2021.

The technology will help drive even greater penetration for Amazon and comes as groceries are being increasingly distributed using robot technologies by supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths.

Amazon’s expansion is far from over as it is already seeking out fresh sites in Melbourne, where industry players says it is buying land in order to develop its own facilities, including data centres.

In Sydney it is pitching the facility as the country’s largest roboticised warehouse, after a long-running location search that will see it develop a state of the art distribution facility at the western Sydney suburb of Kemps Creek.

The company unveiled plans for what it dubbed an Amazon Robotics fulfilment centre on Tuesday and the complex will house more than 1500 jobs. Construction and fit-out will create another 700 jobs, making it one of the largest “shovel-ready” projects as Australia deals with the coronavirus-induced recession.

Amazon is working with industrial property powerhouse the Goodman Group and its joint venture partner Brickwork on the site. Goodman is managing the construction of the facility. It will require 13,500 tonnes of steel, 3,000 tonnes more than the steel used in ANZ Stadium. The lease of the centre was facilitated by CBRE’s Industrial & Logistics business.

Amazon Australia director of operations Craig Fuller says the built to suit complex was required due to the company’s exceptional growth. COVID-19 certainly gave the company a “spurt along” but it had been winning new custom even prior to the pandemic, he says.

“To build a building of this size … there’s a lot of confidence in the Amazon business in Australia and the growth opportunities,” he says.

Like physical rivals, in the breaking weeks of the pandemic, Amazon even ran out of toilet paper and soap sanitisers, but as people stayed home there has been a rising pattern of convenience shopping for bulky items and more use of the all-round Prime system.

“People are now adopting … online shopping as part of their regular buying pattern,” Fuller says.

Such a large roboticised facility won’t be easy to repeat — particularly as those on site will learn movement within the complex — but Amazon is already using high tech systems in its existing local centres.

The fulfilment centre will have a total floor area of around 200,000sq m across four levels — around the same land size as Taronga Zoo – and house up to 11 million items. It more than doubles Amazon’s local operational footprint.

Goodman Group general manager Jason Little said the site was close to a large consumer population, transport links and the future Western Sydney International airport, making it accessible for faster deliveries both now and in the future. launched in Australia in late 2017 and now offers customers 125 million products across 31 different categories including Amazon devices.

The retail giant’s existing network includes three local fulfilment centres; Dandenong South, Melbourne, Moorebank in Sydney and Perth’s Airport Precinct. Earlier this month it announced its fourth fulfilment centre which will begin operating in Lytton, Brisbane, this year.

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