Supplying the steel for Amazon’s new distribution centre

Amazon Fulfilment Centre

2300 steel beams, 1100 WB 215s @ 15.5metres and 1200 WB 455s @ 18 metres cut to size weighing 9000 tonnes. To put that into some sort of perspective, it is the equivalent of 50 full grown adult blue whales.

These are big numbers for a big project, but the numbers alone don’t tell the full story. This project was of strategic significance to the client and a logistical jigsaw for Southern Steel Supplies. With many moving parts, including sourcing the material, processing and distribution to the site, the project required precision timing, high level attention to detail, expert planning and high performance communication and relationship skills.

Some of the steel beams needed to be delivered to the fabrication site, others direct to the painting facility and then onto the construction site. Beams of this size and weight can only be transported five beams at time, and the builders required 280 beams delivered per month.

Doing the maths, that equates to 56 deliveries every month for the best part of nine months. The Tier 1 builder had committed to a very tight milestone schedule, requiring the steel beam components to be delivered within these milestones without fail.

Amazon Fulfilment Centre under construction

Timing is the key to distribution

Timing is everything, and with this project there were added timing considerations. The route the trucks needed to take was within a school zone. For two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon, delivery was not possible. A detailed running schedule was devised to ensure the deliveries could be made during the open time frame. This consideration permeated through the project, influencing processing, loading and staffing schedules, to ensure the team could maximise the narrow time window and deliver as promised.

The logistical and distribution matrix involved in this project set new benchmarks for Southern Steel Supplies. The team worked tirelessly; the factory operated 24 hours a day with three active shifts.

“It was the most dynamic project I have worked on. The timing milestones were significant. The builder required the steel beams at certain points each day to ensure the build schedule was adhered to. Our role was to ensure the steel arrived from the mill, was processed correctly and distributed to either the site, the fabrication facility or the painter,” says Scott Johnson, Processing Manager for Southern Steel Supplies.

“This was one of those projects where teamwork and communication were put to the test. This project was additional to our other work. It all looks easy and smooth on a spreadsheet, however spreadsheets don’t always take into account daily variables like delays from the mill, road closures and other factors that are often out of our control.

A project of this size and duration will inevitably confront unforeseen challenges; however, it was our responsibility to overcome any hurdles and keep the steel supplied on time and on budget and to specification.

Amazon Fulfilment Centre - Steel

Open and transparent communication always wins

The real key to the success of this project was in the communication. Open and helpful communication across each touchpoint, forecasting and communicating potential hazards, and robust relationships with the mill, the client, the fabricators and painters, transport and processing teams ensured the project was successfully completed on time and on budget.

“We knew early on that the success of this project would be determined by open, clear and transparent communication. It is a pillar that Southern Steel moulds into our daily work life, and this project brought out the best in our effective communication techniques.

At all stages, the communication with the mill, fabricators, painters, builders and within our own teams ensured that every stakeholder knew what was going on and when. It sounds like a simple thing; however, without effective communication strategies project like these can easily get out control,” Scott concludes.

This project further illustrated the capabilities and client focused approach of the organisation and its people.

Contact Southern Steel Supplies for your steel needs.



Our company group is built on sophistication in customer service. Get in touch with us today.