Amazon moves into top gear at its Doncaster warehouse as Christmas rush arrives

For around 500 people in Doncaster, it is the vast space where they spend most of their day.

For around 500 people in Doncaster, it is the vast space where they spend most of their day.

A tour of the Amazon base  at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives.  Picture: Chris Etchells

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives. Picture: Chris Etchells

And soon it is set to be the place of work for around that many people again.

That is because the giant Amazon warehouse on Doncaster iPort is gearing up for its busiest time of the year, 10 weeks on from opening its doors earlier this year. And that means taking on hundreds more seasonal staff.

The Christmas rush means a major rise in the workload at the warehouse, which is the third the company has opened in the borough.

Inside the vast building are shelves stacked up to 13m high with goods on a site which is the equivalent of 14 football pitches in size. It is so big that engineers move around on bikes to get to jobs they need to access.

A tour of the Amazon base  at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives.  Picture: Chris Etchells

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives. Picture: Chris Etchells

Entering the building, staff walk past a vast canteen, with hundreds of seats and facilities including table tennis and pool, before getting to the main warehouse, where the racks of stock stretch as far as they eye can see. There is constant movement of yellow vehicles designed to access the shelves, which the staff call PUPs. There are over 100 of these PUPs.

The PUP is a bit like a fork lift truck. It has wheels to drive it around, and when it reaches the correct section of shelves, it lifts its operator and a cage. The operator than can then take the item off the shelf, put it in the cage, and, and bring it back down.

The sound of horns mingles with the rattle of machinery, with conveyor belts, as the drivers make sure the workers on the ground, all clad in high vis, know they are there.

The workers work four 10 hour shifts a week, day shifts or night shifts.

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives. Pictured is Jason Straw. Picture: Chris Etchells

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Items arrive at the warehouse and are sorted and stacked ready for picking when a order arrives. Pictured is Jason Straw. Picture: Chris Etchells

They split up into three sections - receive, where the stock arrives; stow, where is is scanned and put on a rack so it can be ordered by customers; and outbound where items are picked off the shelf by workers in their PUPs and packed.

Sending out can involve using a lift on the PUP to climb to as high as the 16th shelf. Items are then passed on to packers, who scan the items on a machine which tells them what size box they need. Addresses and put on and the goodies move onto conveyor belts, which take them to one of the 50 loading bays to be taken away by lorries.

General manager Stuart Morgan said: "We are setting records at the moment because we only launched 10 weeks ago, so we are getting busier every week as Christmas approaches.

"We're getting ready for Christmas, and Black Friday marks the start of the the Christmas period. Amazon started doing Black Friday in the UK in 2010, and it marks the start of the season, where we do various offers. And that is why we're hiring staff at the moment.

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Pictured is  Instructor Maria Merino Martin. Picture: Chris Etchells

A tour of the Amazon base at Doncaster iPort as the Christmas rush begins to start. Pictured is Instructor Maria Merino Martin. Picture: Chris Etchells

"The teams here are getting better every day and what they have achieve since opening is incredible, from being a brand new team 10 weeks ago. We know we can get great people locally in Doncaster."

Black Friday this year is on Friday November 24.

It always takes place on the day the Americans eat their Thanksgiving dinner. As Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year, Black Friday lands on the fourth Friday of the month.

It is a day when most major retailers open very early and offer promotional sales.

All change for ex-bus driver Jason

Jason Straw, from Mexborough, packed in a job as a bus driver to work at the vast Amazon site at the iPort.

The 26-year-old works in the stow section. He said: "Bus driving involved a lot of responsibility, and I wanted a change.

"I've found it absolutely brilliant here, and I can get here from home in 15 50 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

"I can be doing something different every day, and yesterday was a record day. You can tell it's getting busier, but everyone still very calm."

Maria Merino Martin, from Doncaster town centre, also swapped careers to start at her job at the IPort.

Maria, aged 22, was previously working two jobs - she was working as a waitress in a town centre restaurant, and also in a factory in Armthorpe.

She was working on a non-contact basis as a waitress and decided to apply to Amazon after on the advice of friends who worked at the firm's other businesses, on Balby Carr Bank and Water Vole Way.

"They said it was nice," she said. "I was scared of the machines when I first arrived, but I soon got use to them, and I get on when with the other people who work here."

Ovidiu Dianica, aged 28, has been at Amazon longer than Jason and Maria.

Ovidiu, who lives in Doncaster town centre, started with the firm at another of its Doncaster sites in 2015, and trained up to operate one of the PUP lifting machines, and was one of the first people in the new iPort building in August.

Previously, he had worked as a waiter and had other jobs but Amazon was his first permanent role. He now helps show new staff the ropes.

He said: " I like to think that I have had an impact on bringing the team together and making it what it is today."

"I am proud to have been here from the beginning.

"I really enjoy my job - no day is the same, there is always a new challenge and I am constantly learning"

"I have been with Amazon for more than two years and I am enjoying teaching the new recruits."