Amazon Fulfillment Center Opens in Bessemer

Amazon’s first fulfillment center in Alabama (and Alabama’s first robotic center) opened in March 2020 in Bessemer with over 1,500 employees. This $325 million investment will have a significant economic annual impact on our area – over $46 million in payroll, as well as $203 million to Jefferson County’s and $232 million to Alabama’s economic output, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research in the University of Alabama’ Culverhouse School of Business.

Out of Amazon’s 175 global fulfillment centers, this is one of only 25 that uses robots to help customers get their packages on time. Within 15 minutes of an order coming in, Amazon will determine if the Bessemer location is the best fulfillment center for that customer. Then 350-pound robots will work with the 1,500 associates to retrieve items and process over 100,000 orders a day. Robot technology helps the associates perform tedious tasks, pick up heavier items and increases efficiency and employee safety.

This fulfillment center is 90% larger than the first center ever built by Amazon. Over 15,000 tons of steel was used to build this 4-story structure that covers 14 football fields and includes 22 miles of conveyor belts.

The developer Seefried Properties began work on the 80-acre site in June 2018. Due to the complexity of the geologic conditions and specific construction needs of the building, Seefried selected BHATE as their geotechnical engineering and testing consultant. BHATE, the only Birmingham-based firm on the design team, was chosen for our extensive geotechnical and construction design experience on sites of a similar size and scope.

The 855,000-SF structure had tight construction tolerances that had to be built to incorporate the use of robot technology. BHATE provided testing to ensure construction materials met the specification requirements and quality assurance to ensure floor tolerances during construction.

BHATE is proud to have been part of this significant project for Jefferson County and Alabama.  We appreciate the recruitment efforts of the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Birmingham Business Alliance and Jefferson County to bring this Amazon fulfillment center to Alabama.

BHATE Geosciences’ services on the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer included:

  • Construction materials testing and inspections – aggregate piers, asphalt, concrete placement, earthwork, reinforcing steel, steel
  • Earthwork specification
  • Floor flatness/floor levelness testing
  • Foundation and geotechnical design recommendations
  • Geotechnical assessment – lime stabilization
  • Geotechnical laboratory analysis
  • Ground penetrating radar (GPR) structural mapping
  • Settlement analysis
  • Slope analysis and pavement distress evaluation
  • Specification for total design build of retaining walls
  • Subsurface exploration and drilling – ATV drill rig, soil testing borings