In 1994, Jeff Bezos delivered Amazon’s first customer packages to the local Seattle post office by hand. Over the span of 26 years, what started as a book-selling website is now a global enterprise, servicing 300 million customers in over 200 countries and territories. This year, our transportation network celebrated the delivery of our 10 billionth customer package, and counting. So, how did we get here? How did a local Seattle startup build the capacity of an interconnected transportation network of planes, trains, trucks, and vans, capable of managing two-, one-, even sub-same day delivery?
It all starts with Amazon’s customer-obsessed approach, which drives innovation from all corners of our operations team. Combining customer obsession with an innovation mindset enabled us to build and optimize our global supply chain so we can meet the needs of our customers, especially during this time when people continue to rely on getting what they need delivered directly to their doorsteps. We couldn’t do that without technology - it’s the backbone of our operations, and helps us drive efficiencies and scale our network so we can support our growing customer base.
Building the Model
Historically, Amazon used to work almost exclusively with large, nationwide delivery companies and established regional delivery companies. As demand for deliveries grew, we saw an opportunity to build our own capacity so we could better control our network. Since 2014, Amazon built and scaled an entire global transportation network from scratch, developing the tools needed to ensure consistency and reliability of the end-to-end Amazon experience for our customers. My team at Amazon Transportation Services is responsible for our air, line haul and sortation and returns and re-commerce networks, which is referred to as “the middle mile,” or as I like to call it, the heartbeat of our operations, which ensures a smooth transition into the “last mile” for customer delivery.
We started by partnering with small trucking businesses to haul loads for Amazon in between our customer fulfillment and last mile delivery sites. Now, we work with more than 1,200 line haul service providers employing more than 13,000 drivers. We also utilize our Transportation Operations Management team, which is made up of amazing Amazon associates who work in our trucking yards to manage inbound capacity and keep freight flowing. This joint effort of our associates and partners helps us autonomously manage our freight operation. To put this into context, in North America on the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year, we delivered over 21,000 truckloads compared to 5,000 loads on the same day in 2017, giving you an idea of how the team has scaled.
As we saw the need for faster delivery grow, we implemented systems that would enable us to travel longer distances within shorter timeframes. In 2016, our dedicated air cargo network, Amazon Air, took to the skies. We now operate more than 70 aircraft in our fleet, flying to over 35 air gateways and regional hubs across the country. In 2021, we will open our first central air hub at the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport.