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December 2017 View more

Photo by Mike Fan Photography

If you think it would be a challenge to manage a retail store or mall this time of year, imagine being in charge of an entire Amazon warehouse, when—for the first year ever—Americans are expected to buy more gifts online than in retail stores.

Although the growing multibillion-dollar e-commerce shopping arena is virtual, a nearby brick-and-mortar building is responsible for fulfilling many of those orders. Amazon’s Romeoville facility sits in a business park off I-55, just southwest of corporate neighbors Ulta Beauty and the WeatherTech Factory Showroom in Bolingbrook.

The 750,000-square-foot distribution center, which opened in September 2016, is active all day and all night (every day except for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve night and New Year’s Day). The facility is one of many Amazon centers in suburban Chicago—including in Aurora, Waukegan, Crest Hill, Monee and two in Joliet—and the company currently has two distribution points in the southern part of the state, with more centers on the way.

Naperville magazine recently sat down with the head of the Romeoville facility, General Manager Victor Davis, who spent 18 years at Caterpillar before coming to Amazon in 2013.

What does your typical day look like?
We have a regular structure: We have daily meetings and review plans from the previous day, and I have time scheduled on the floor as well. My primary focus is to improve the experience and ensure quality in our processes. I want to make sure I’m setting associates up for success.

And what is it like for you now, during the peak holiday season?
I feel like a kid approaching Christmas. Peak is a fun time. I have less administrative-type work and I’m with the team on the floor, making sure to get packages to our customers. I can’t think of a better part of my job than working with associates to get the packages out.

We look 12 weeks out, planning labor for higher volumes so we know who we need to hire and where they need to be—it’s all part of the planning cycle and we’re able to predict that with pretty good accuracy.

What types of packages do you handle in Romeoville?
We have the non-sort products that are bigger items: pressure cookers, blenders, large bags of dog food, car seats. In Joliet we have a fulfillment center that includes smaller products—movies and vitamins, for example, might come out of there. We might merge some loads together with the Joliet center where it makes sense.

How has warehouse work changed in the last 10 to 20 years?
Associate engagement has changed from 20 years ago. We focus on the way we work and the culture of the work environment. We want to make sure people have a great experience at work, and tell their friends about that experience.

We have about 1,000 associates who mostly live in the suburban areas of Naperville, Plainfield, Bolingbrook
and Romeoville.

How does your Amazon team help in the community?
We do a lot of things. Recently I spoke at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Bolingbrook. We had a donation event for dog food to help the local community and the Houston area. We donated books to a Bolingbrook elementary school. We also volunteer at events in the area, such as Feed My Starving Children.

What’s it like when you talk to people about where your work?
When people realize I work at Amazon, they light up. They’ll say, “I love Amazon!” and talk about the packages that are delivered to their doorstep. It’s good feedback.