Step inside Amazon's $132M Lake Nona fulfillment center

Kirc Savage stared out over the so-called incoming department where rows of truck bays help ship millions of products a week from Amazon.com Inc.'s fulfillment center in Lake Nona.

The hub, which opened in August, spans more than 2.3 million square feet over four levels — roughly the size of 40 football fields. The Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth (Nasdaq: AMZN) employs roughly 1,500 people in the center, which is one of the largest properties Amazon operates in the Sunshine State.

In Central Florida, Amazon's Lake Nona center is the nexus of a sprawling distribution operation where the Seattle company is the region's largest industrial user. "You're in the Cadillac or Lamborghini of fulfillment centers," said Savage, the general manager at the Lake Nona center. "This is as good as it gets."

Amazon invited media members and others to tour the facility at 12340 Boggy Creek Road on April 12. Click through the slideshow to peek inside the fulfillment facility.

The distribution process starts when products arrive through truck bays behind the facility. These items then are loaded onto conveyor belts, which serve as the arteries of the facility and stretch more than 10 miles.

The products — which range from baby items to books and DVDs — arrive at a process point where workers manually load them onto large yellow bookshelves called pods. A light tells the worker where the items should go in the pod. Then, these pods slip back into dark rows of other pods via motorized scooters as far as the eye can see.

There's no order to the products in the pods. "The randomness makes it more efficient," Savage said.

Later, when a customer orders something, a scooter picks up a pod and drives itself to a worker who scans the product and places it on a conveyor belt to start the delivery process. The first customer order fulfilled at the Lake Nona facility was the book "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Lara Jean.

After that, a conveyor belt moves the item to a worker who scans the product and places it inside a box or an envelope. A machine then slaps a shipping label on the order and feeds it out for delivery.

Amazon's dominance of Central Florida's retail real estate continues as the e-commerce company looks to expand its distribution operations. The company is expected to operate a roughly 300,000-square-foot distribution center east of Interstate 95 near the 630,000-square-foot Trader Joe’s distribution center in Daytona Beach, as previously reported by Orlando Business Journal. Kansas City-based VanTrust Real Estate LLC is developing the 20-acre property.

The move to open a distribution center in Daytona shows the demand for Amazon in Volusia County and how rapidly the e-commerce company is dominating retail real estate, Vincent Wolle, president at Lake Mary-based Results Real Estate Partners LLC, who isn't involved in the deal, previously said. Historically, Daytona wasn't a hub for large distribution operations as users typically build their warehouses in Orlando to serve Central Florida.

It's also a major boon for industrial real estate in Volusia County as well. “It’ll attract other industrial users,” Wolle said.