What Is a Sortation Center?

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A stack of packed boxes on a shelf ready for shipping.
A stack of packed boxes on a shelf ready for shipping. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

A sortation center is the final step in an order delivery chain. Unlike with a traditional order fulfillment process in which packaged orders go straight to the shipper for sorting and shipping, sortation center employees receive and sort packaged orders before delivering them to the shipper. Amazon.com coined the term “sortation center” in 2014 when it opened its first center in Kent, Washington. According to James Greene, a business reporter for the Seattle Times, the objectives are to increase control and bypass sorting processes at the shipping facility, thereby reducing shipping times.

Sortation Center Activities

At a sortation center, receiving employees unload packages containing completed customer orders. The packages then move through a conveyor line where workers sort them according to routing numbers or the destination zip code. Once sorted, delivery personnel palletize and take sorted packages to the appropriate shipping location. For example, workers at the Amazon.com Kent, Washington, sortation center take sorted orders to post offices in Seattle and Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon, as well as a few points in between.

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