By Kara Fohner
One of Amazon’s newest fulfillment centers is located in Spartanburg, S.C. The single floor building sprawls the length of a mile. Known for their prosperous yet reclusive regime, Amazon operates behind illustrious, high-end security.
This fall, Brevard College students were the first undergraduates to explore Amazon Corporation’s Spartanburg facility. The trip to Amazon was part of BC’s Business and Organizational Leadership (BORG) biannual symposium, a class specifically designed to guide BORG majors into the realms of professional development and entrepreneurship. The class is taught collaboratively; every BORG faculty member attends, and outside business experts are invited to offer their expertise. At the end of the course, the class takes a day-long field trip to visit the headquarters of successful corporations. The content of the course prepares participants for their culminating out-of-class experience.
This fall’s theme was marketing and branding, an area in which Amazon excels.
“You walk into Amazon, and there are thousands of products,” said Dr. Barbara Boerner, BORG major Coordinator and Professor. “We learned that Amazon has figured out that the fastest way to fulfill an order is to distribute goods throughout the warehouse. Once the order goes in, people called pickers get the order, located goods, and transfer them down to get packed, checked, and sent out.”
“It was cool to see how Amazon had everything where it was supposed to be and how they had any product ordered shipped in two days,” said junior BORG student Heather Morris.
“I think it’s remarkable,” Boerner added. “It’s almost like magic.”
This quick shipment time requires Amazon employees to maintain high physical energy and mental acuity. As a part of their tour, the colloquium class learned the “Amazon Walk.” To demonstrate, Boerner rose from her chair and leaned slightly forward, arms stiff at her sides. Then, she marched across her office, eyes focused squarely forward. Pickers, she said, walk 12 miles a day. Working from the bottom up, efficiency is drummed into individual employees although they are assembled into teams.
As the first college allowed into the new facility, BC’s polished behavior opened the door for future business programs. Amazon’s representative told the group that the company will now allow two colleges in per year.
During their trip, the students also visited the Adidas Corporation, The Beacon Drive-in, and Arcadia Farms – all companies renowned in their field for high professional standards and matchless success. Like most high profile entities, these corporations acknowledge one another on a cordial, professional level. Forty years ago, Arcadia was a small dairy in Arden.
Now, the family-owned business is a major supplier to Ingles Markets. The company also bottles drinks for The Beacon, the second largest drive-in in the US. When the colloquium visited The Beacon for a traditional Southern lunch, management cited Arcadia as their source for bottled drinks, which offered students a first-hand experience of how professional connections operate. “Business is all about networking,” said Boerner.
Like Arcadia Farms, Adidas is also a distribution center. They assemble, package, and arrange transport for clothing and athletic accessories. BC students and faculty were welcomed by guides, one of which was a “Global Solutions Architect” – an expert in information and technology.
“They were both really young looking,” Boerner said, “so I asked, is either of you over 30? They said, ‘no’.”
“This showed students that they don’t have to work at a company for years and years to advance”, explained Boerner. Expertise and initiative can trump experience. In corporate administration, youth is welcomed, not stigmatized.
“I’ve really enjoyed the classes because they are not the typical business classes,” said junior Heidi Kaartinen. “During these experiences you have the opportunity to see real businesses and talk to business people who have many years of experience. Personally, I have become more realistic and critical as a result of these experiences,” added Kaartinen.
As a BORG major, Kaartinen was required to attend two colloquiums, but some students go all four years. “This colloquium becomes a common experience for both faculty and students in the program,” Boerner noted. “We’re so committed to it that even though only the coordinator is assigned to it, we all go. We work as a team.”
Kara, a junior English major concentrating in creative writing with a teacher licensure, is working in the Communications Department this semester.