Amazon this week opened its $1.5 billion air hub in northern Kentucky, a massive facility that will enable the e-commerce giant to take even more control of its ever-expanding shipping operation as part of ongoing efforts to speed up customer deliveries.
The facility at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will serve as the central hub for Amazon Air’s U.S. cargo network, processing millions of customer packages every week. Up to 100 Amazon-branded planes can use the facility at any one time, with as many as 200 Amazon flights per day coming in and out. Several thousand jobs have been created by its opening.
The 600-acre site is home to seven buildings, a large ramp for aircraft parking, and a multi-story vehicle parking structure. “The sortation facility is equipped with the innovative use of robotics technology that helps move and sort packages — including robotic arms and mobile drive units that transport packages across the building — miles of interlinked conveyors, and ergonomic workstations that support a comfortable work environment for employees,” the company said.
The new facility will allow Amazon to take greater control of its own shipping operation and rely less on the likes of UPS and FedEx for cargo transportation. There’s been speculation that it could even allow the company to offer its own cargo services to other firms, though there appear to be no immediate plans to do so.
Work on the Kentucky facility started four years ago when Amazon boss Jeff Bezos jumped on a front-end loader to break ground on the new site that’s been described as the size of 31 Great American Ballparks.
Amazon has been making moves to take control of its shipping network ever since it got stung during the 2013 holiday season when the major shipping companies buckled due to the sheer number of packages passing through their networks. Late deliveries left many customers upset, prompting Amazon to offer impacted shoppers a $20 gift card. A short while later, the online shopping behemoth revealed it was “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers,” an ominous-sounding message that seemingly paved the way for the new Kentucky facility about nine miles southwest of downtown Cincinnati.
Amazon executive Sarah Rhoads said the company was “excited to get rolling in Northern Kentucky,” adding that the facility “will connect our air cargo network for years to come.”