Amazon opens robotic fulfillment facility in Calgary

by Derek Clouthier

Amazon opened its newest robotics fulfilment centre, YYC4, in Calgary, Alta., today, only the second of its kind in Canada.

Measuring 2.8 million square feet with more than 1,500 employees, the new facility will offer in-demand skills training and career growth opportunities with cutting-edge technology that fulfils customer orders more quickly.

Sushant Jha, general manager of YYC4, says from a technology standpoint, the only other Amazon facility in the country that measures up to this new Calgary warehouse is the London, Ont., location, which opened last year.

“Robotics increases productivity quite significantly,” says Jha. “What it allows us to do is make the environment safer for our associates, which means they want to work with us and grow with us. It also makes [productivity] more efficient.”

Amazon’s YYC4 Robotics Fulfillment Centre in Calgary.

Jha says robotics used at the facility are not fully autonomous and need human assistance, but instead of an Amazon associate having to perform a manual skill, the robot provides greater skilled labour.

“That allows us to make that process more efficient for our customers and to expand overall,” says Jha. “As that consumer base in Canada, Alberta and Calgary grows, it allows us to inject a more efficient system to work.”

Calgary was chosen for its geographic proximity to the Canadian Prairies, where Jha says Amazon is looking to increase its footprint, as well as the neighbouring province to the west.

“With the future demand that the country is seeing overall, we are well geographically located to serve customers in B.C. right now,” says Jha. “This is a great place to set that foundation and expand into B.C. and into Saskatoon. There is excellent logistics with the [Calgary] airport being right here and allows us to do national fulfillment, not just Edmonton or B.C., but also to Toronto.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was present during the grand opening, saying Amazon is a welcome addition to the province, adding to the growth of the economy.

“YYC4 Robotics Fulfillment Centre is the eleventh operations site Amazon has opened in Alberta, and it’s cutting edge to say the least,” Smith said during the ceremony. “This facility shows the confidence that companies have here in Alberta, as a hub of innovation and place where businesses can grow and thrive.”

Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek said Amazon’s decision to open the new facility sent a clear signal to the city’s growing prominence on the global stage.

“Calgary has long been a very well-connected city. In fact, 68 per cent of Alberta’s air cargo shipments are transported through the Calgary International Airport, and we can reach 50 million people each day in one day’s drive,” said Gondek. “Cargo can be transported anywhere within 48 hours of leaving Calgary, making us one of the most connected mid-sized cities in North America.”

Ribbon cutting at the grand opening of Amazon’s YYC4 Robotics Fulfillment Centre in Calgary May 24.

At Amazon Robotics fulfilment centres, employees work alongside automated systems and robots to pick, pack, and ship customer orders. Amazon’s innovative robotics technology creates a safer, more efficient workplace while providing employees with hands-on training to develop new, in-demand career skills. Amazon Robotics technology used at YYC4 includes RWC4, a large robotic arm that sorts totes by destination and builds pallets for shipping, and Kermit, a trolley that focuses on towing empty totes throughout the facility and can adjust its speed and route as needed.

“I’ve learned a lot working with Amazon Robotics. The goal isn’t just to master new technology, but to chart a whole new career path,” says Danielle Olliviere, learning trainer at YYC4. “Seeing my colleagues embrace this innovation has been really inspiring for me as a learning trainer. We’re not just keeping up with the times; we’re shaping the future.”

With the launch of YYC4, Amazon now operates five fulfilment centres, one sortation centre, three delivery stations and two AMXL delivery stations in Alberta.

“Amazon’s latest expansion in our province is proof positive that Alberta’s business and investment environment remains second-to-none,” said Matt Jones, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and trade. “This new fulfilment centre will help serve the consumer needs of our province. It will also provide employees with good jobs and important opportunities for skills development on innovative new robotics technology so that Amazon remains on the cutting edge of logistics. I want to congratulate Amazon on this exciting milestone and wish them continued success.”