Tuesday, November 15, 2022

So this is how it works!

We had a great sewing day on Monday. One of the things that I love, and that is impossible to have in person, is our presentation. We do a show and tell of what we're working on or what we have finished, and we can share photos from quilt shows. It's so much fun! I was supposed to be doing some real work, but I puttered and put stuff away instead. I didn't take a photo, but Studio B looks much better, but not by much! I'll share that tomorrow. I have projects to make and write about, but I need focus and concentration, which is hard to do on Monday. So that will happen tomorrow. I need MANY tomorrows!

If you haven't moved your sewing machine in a while, look at why you should. WOW --- who knew there was so much lint under my machine. I don't use anything under my machine -- no fancy cloth organizer or mat. Why? Because it would be filled with lint, I'd have to shake it out more regularly than I dust the table. It's easier and faster to just run the dust cloth over this mess. Speaking of my dust cloth, I have THREE of them, and I can't find two. The third one is in the car, so I can use it to whip condensation off the windows. But where or where are those other two? I use those microfibre cloths, which are great for collecting dust. I wonder if they got washed and just not put away yet? 

A lot of dust collected under the sewing machine

But then someone mentioned that UFO Club is this coming weekend. What? NO!!!!!! It can't be, but I checked my calendar, and YES, this weekend. I'm not willing to give up my $20 -- $10 for each class, so I immediately got out my UFO and frantically started cutting. It's doable as the homework won't take long. But holy smokes, those deadlines creep up!

Someone mentioned that they were struggling with UFO deadlines that they had made and ended up rushing to meet their deadline and so they stopped doing it. I will NOT rush to get this done; it'll be done to my satisfaction. It's all about NOT biting off more than you can chew. Both projects are small, and they are definitely UFOs. I will be happy to get them done and crossed off that UFO list. Speaking of that list, I did NOT seem to get much off the list this year, and I'll add more next year. But at least those projects are NOT getting forgotten. 

Although everything takes time - I don't want those projects to get lost. So I'll plug away at it and try to get better focused! Also, pushing through all those quilts for Quilts of Valour and Project Linus took a lot of time! I must be more mindful of my deadlines FIRST!!!

However, I received a beautiful note from the recipient of one of the RCMP quilts I donated. The recipient was so appreciative that it makes me want to donate more! But all in good time! I have some work to do this year to finish those quilts, and after this week (I know --- I always say that!), things will be much quieter. 

Trust me -- they will. The writing will be done for this year, no more travel - well, that's not true, but no more serious travel and no major homework or classroom work. It's all good -- just this week will be a bit stressful. 

So can you tell me why I always pick dates for something that rushes me for time? That's because the writing was supposed to be finished last week, and I was quilting. My own fault! I scheduled well; I just did not respect that schedule because I was trying to quilt more Quilts of Valour quilts. 

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was the BIG tour! I won't mention the name of where I was -- I don't want it coming up in a Google search, but I'm sure you can guess from the pictures where I was. 

So the warehouse is fifteen minutes from my house. And I believe this warehouse was built in 2016. 

My warehouse tour

It's HUGE at 850,000 square feet! And with multiple levels in it, I'm sure the actual square footage is much larger. I should have asked that question!! This is the fourth warehouse in this vicinity, likely because it's close to the airport. There are 386 facilities worldwide! Fifty (I think that was the number) are robotic facilities. Guess what????? This is an automated facility! I had no idea, and I was so excited when I found out, as this is what I wanted to see! 

I am thankful that I watched the tour video, so I knew exactly what was coming, which allowed me to ask real questions to gain more knowledge. 

OK -- so you're asking, why would I go there based on my dislike for them. Well, I like to know how things work and what better way than seeing it in person. I'm still not a fan of them even after the tour, but the tour was knowledge-building, not to get cozy with them. 

I have been in other warehouses before, but never one this huge nor this automated. Let's say the first thing that hits you when you walk in the door is the NOISE!!! Wow --- you can't even hear yourself think with the noise. More on that in a minute. 

There was a sparse "reception" area and massive doors like this one to get in and out of the facility. Let's just say that you would not gain access to the warehouse unless you were very skilled. 

The entry doors

All the buildings are numbered with the airport code and then a number designating which building is which. So this is Number 4 for the Toronto airport. And at the moment, this is the ONLY Canadian warehouse that offers tours. 


There are other warehouses within a 100-mile radius, so they put them close to airports and dense populations. 

OK --- so the pictures stop here! Although we had our phones/cameras with us, we were NOT allowed to take pictures, except for one spot, which I'll show you in a minute. 

You have to book the tour -- you can't just walk in. Then they check your name off the list, and you get a visitor badge. When it was time for the tour to start, we were ushered through a door -- we did not have to go through the "cattle" gates, I mean turnstiles! The tour guide and two "handlers" were there to ensure we didn't stray off. 

WOW --- that noise level is insane! What is it?? OH --- it's the MILES and MILES of conveyor belts that run the warehouse! It was challenging to hear, but the employees are NOT required to wear ear protection. They can if they want, but not required. I'm not sure I could handle that noise every day. The world must feel silent when they leave at the end of their shift!

It's a warehouse, to be sure! There was a line of desks near the front for HR, safety, and even a swag shop! But no cozy offices -- this is a warehouse and let's be efficient. We were given headphones so we could hear the tour guide and we could use it to ask questions. So that was much better. 

As mentioned, this is a robotic warehouse. You should watch the virtual tour if you haven't seen the robots work. It's absolutely fascinating, and I could have watched them for hours! There are FOUR floors of robots. Each floor contains a sea of storage shelves which are dumb. They do nothing, but when there's a robot under it, it whizzes around the "corral" like mad. I swear two units were whizzing and going to collide, but they stopped on a dime just mere inches from each other. And everything is randomly stored on different storage shelves (pods) and in various locations on the pods. 

The amount of technology used to run that place will blow your mind, and of course, it all runs on their massive web services base. Someone on our tour spotted a box that had slipped off the conveyor belt and was stuck. An alert will be generated for that missing package, and the items will be repicked and packed rather than someone roaming the length of the conveyor belts to find it. It'll eventually get rescued and restocked!!! 

We saw how the items were brought into the warehouse and added to the inventory. The video helped to show that process in greater detail than what we saw in person. Then we saw a person picking the orders. All this process happens in about one-half of the warehouse, and the other half is for packing and labeling. 

There are about 5,000 people who work in this warehouse, and the break room holds 850 people! Coats are hung on coat racks like at a banquet hall! There is NO personal space for anyone! Maybe the management team or the engineering staff may have a bit more personal space, but I doubt it. 

I saw the machine that puts air into those bubble cushions you find inside your box, and the tape is no longer black -- it was orange! I think they change it up from time to time, but I've only seen black. 

So there was one photo op on a gangplank between the shipping and receiving docks. Behind me is the receiving area with the bay doors to the right. In front of me are the bay doors to the area where the trucks are being packed to be transported to their destination. 

Me on the warehouse tour

As we walked down one spot, you were at eye level with one conveyor, and packages were whizzing by at great speed. I was totally fascinated by the entire tour. 

In the video, as in person, they STRESS how much they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. They recycle tons of corrugated cardboard from the boxes they receive products in. And there are massive cardboard recycling boxes throughout the facility. And they always show what they are doing for their local community. And the more robots they have, the more jobs they generate, as that can speed up the process of processing. I should mention that those robots can lift 1,500 pounds without blinking and move the pod at lightning speed. They can work ALL DAY and takes less than 10 minutes to recharge. WHAT?????   How come our other batteries don't work as well? The robots themselves weigh 350 lbs! In case you didn't watch the video, the robot is a flat orange box about eight high by 24"??? square. It rotates, lifts and moves! That's all it does. Watch the video to see them in action. 

I asked a LOT of questions. Two families were there with their kids; I think another group was from a supplier. I was alone. 

Then we went back downstairs and were given the choice of three things as a thank you! I grabbed a notebook! 

My thank you gift

They seem to provide many benefits -- paying for education and being very aware of ethnicities as there were displays along that initial corridor. They pay decently for a warehouse job; the shifts are long at 10 hours and run two daily shifts. So they don't quite run 24/7. 

I don't know if I could work there, though. Not that I was scouting it out. The noise level is crazy, and you couldn't listen to music and definitely not an audiobook. And EVERYTHING is timed. The minute an employee grabbed an item to put into the storage carts, the timer started. I bet that's to see who is more efficient and why. The pressure to perform must be insane! They ship 1,000,000 boxes a DAY!!!!! 

The place is run on BARCODES. Without bar codes, the system would fail, and I didn't see a time when someone had to reswipe. The scanners are huge, fast, and very efficient. 

So, all in all, it was a fascinating tour -- I'm happy I went. But has it convinced me to buy from them? Nope --- I love their technology; I just don't love what they are doing to our shopping habits, small towns, and independent businesses. So I'll buy from them if I have no other option. But the whole place is so impersonal. If I had the choice of working in a small shop selling to people directly or standing at a station for 10 hours, packing boxes of products for people? I know which one I would take! 

But times have changed, and that's just life. I might return at some point as I have other questions and want to know the information! 

On that note, I'm on the road again today. I started the four-part Zoom series hosted by Stitch by Stitch last night. You'll be sorry to miss it, as a LOT of information passed last night, and it's all so cool how it works together. Not as automated as the warehouse, but for our industry -- it's pretty cutting-edge! 

The list of classes will appear later this week, so watch for that. Don't forget we have Goats in PJs starting on Friday. It's a two-part class, and it's hosted by The Hobby Horse. Sign up if you haven't already! 

Have a super day!!!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tour. My feeling about "them" and shopping are identical to yours. I order from them twice a year during free Pri#@ shipping trials for the items no longer carried here in town.

    Safe travels!