The final question we put to Ronan Bole, Amazon France’s affable and enthusiastic operations director and president of Amazon France Logistics, turns out, he says, to be both the simplest and the most complex to answer.
“What happens next?” he considers. “Well, the simple answer is that because we have developed a very strong spine of large fulfilment centres from north to south in France, the next locations will see us expand to the east and west. We are also establishing Amazon Lockers at nearly 1,000 train stations across France, because we want to deliver to where the customer is on their journey and also to make sure that a person living in a remote location within France has the same delivery service available as one living in Paris.”
However, Bole happily admits that when he joined Amazon five years ago he could not have foreseen the pace and level of change and innovation that would be introduced by the company during his tenure to date.
So the complicated answer to your question is that at Amazon we have a lot of very clever people working on innovation and new services all the time, so you never quite know what might happen or be introduced over the next two or three years
The core infrastructure of the Amazon network is currently served by five fulfilment centres in France, which effectively run along a central spine from north to south. Towards the end of the year a sixth will open in Bretigny-sur-Orge and will be the first in the country to be packed with automation and robotics as part of the next generation of distribution centres being developed globally by the online giant.
In all, Amazon offers over 250 million products to customers through Amazon.fr, having opened its first fulfilment centre in the south in 2010. By the end of this year it will employ over 7,500 people nationwide on permanent contracts and of these roles, 2,000 will have been created in 2018 alone.
Bole points out that the “Amazon school” – a training programme for staff that both trains employees and then helps them upgrade their skills and build a career – means that the company can hire people without previous experience in logistics. “We say that to join Amazon you ‘can come as you are’,” he explains.
In terms of last mile delivery, Amazon works with its traditional partners, notably state postal provider La Poste as well as other national and local providers, and has also increasingly been looking to pick-up points, as customer needs and preferences evolve. There are currently more than 20,000 pick-up points and over 500 Amazon Lockers across France, located in shopping centres operated by Immochan, Klepiere, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Hammerson, Apsys, Wereldhave and Frey among others, plus locations within retail stores such as G20, E. Leclerc and Cora. Lockers are also sited at universities and petrol stations through partnerships with Esso and BP.
Next on the agenda is a big push into France’s extensive rail network, an initiative which launched in June of this year.
“We have announced that we are working with SNCF Gares & Connexions to install 1,000 Lockers in over 980 train stations across France over the next five years, giving passengers an easy, convenient and safe way to receive their packages,” says Bole.
Customers increasingly want to take the opportunity to select a convenient Locker location that is close to home, work or on the daily commute, including at the smaller suburban stations, so that collection becomes part of their everyday journey.
Bole says that beyond the next opening near Paris, future sites have not yet been announced. Not surprisingly, the current centres are all located around main transit roads and also dovetail with centres around Europe, with the emphasis on optimising their functions so that products can be brought in and then distributed to the customer in the minimum number of packages.
Looking at the French map, the obvious gaps are both to the east and west of the central spine that connects the soon-to-be six existing sites. The centres are also getting bigger, with the newest close to 110,000 sq m.
“What it comes down to is that Amazon is an inventor of technology,” says Bole.
We are obsessed with what our customers want and we invest in our technology to serve their needs. And we will continue to do so.
Come and hear Ronan Bole’s keynote address in introduction of the conference “All you need is logisitics!” at MAPIC 2018!