At “LTN5” – the official designation for Amazon’s book-printing centre in the UK – it’s more than just about producing books; it’s about nurturing a community of hard-working individuals who are committed to their roles and who understand that in the digital age, print still holds a special place in the hearts of readers across the UK.
We spoke to the employees at LTN5 to discover more about working at the centre, upskilling and developing within their careers, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to modern bookmaking.
Specialised training for cutting-edge technology
At the very start of the process are the printers. Abdul Ahmed, a Level 2 Machine Operator and Amazon veteran, guides us through LTN5’s bank of printers and digital presses, and explains the mechanisms behind each one. Abdul has worked at Amazon for over fifteen years, and has worked at LTN5 since it opened in 2018. Abdul is part of a small, critical team at LTN5 that are certified to operate HP Indigo printers at an advanced level, having travelled to Barcelona to receive specialized training at HP’s printing innovation centre.
“I enjoy the whole process,” said Abdul. “It’s satisfying seeing how many units we produced at the end of a shift – and I like to problem-solve, although luckily I haven’t had to do much of that recently!”
Implementing tech innovations is one of the most exciting parts of the job
Abdul has seen a lot of change at Amazon as an employee, working across three different sites and seeing new innovations like the introduction of inkjet printing. He shows us one of the inkjet printers used at LTN5 to print books, and tells us the same model is used to print banknotes at the Bank of England.
Immediately after printing there is a quality-assurance check on the initial printed pages. James Chappell, Proxy Team Lead, takes us through what to look for – misaligned prints, smudging, marks and errors. Even the smallest mistakes need to be found quickly so that printers can be shut down and the issues resolved before more prints are affected.
James has worked at Amazon for five years, and has been working at the Luton print-on-demand centre since 2018. As a Proxy Team Lead, James works across the centre to fill in for when other Leads are not at work.
Problem-solving and balancing workloads are what make work truly satisfying
“When filling in for a Team Lead, I need to designate tasks and balance workloads to ensure no team is under too much pressure. It’s really satisfying when any problems or issues have been solved, and the entire printing process is flowing smoothly.”
Alongside his daily role, James is working towards a CIPD Level 3 qualification with Amazon’s Career Choice programme. He also helps manage manufacturing apprenticeships and is one of the centre’s main contacts for the Glamazon UK employee network.
“It’s great to be able to give back to the community during donation drives for local food banks at the centre, and also donating surplus material to schools, libraries and hospitals.
Once printed and checked, Marius Vaicickas – Proxy Team Lead for Amazon Stores – takes us to the penultimate stage of the process – cutting and binding. Using the ‘Infinitrim’ machine, each printed book is cut down to size before binding.
From Fulfillment Associate to Electrical Engineer
Marius started at Amazon in 2013 as a Fulfillment Associate. Now, with the help of the Career Choice programme, he is training in electrical engineering and is an RME technician at the site.
“As part of Career Choice, I was able to get a Level 3 Diploma in Advanced Electrical Engineering from Bedfordshire College, and have taken on more and more responsibilities within operations.”
Marius has also been able to give back locally as part of working at the centre, delivering unused supplies to his local vet clinic to thank them for helping him out in an emergency.
Finally, the almost-finished books are bound by the ‘Titan’ machines and inspected by a dedicated team to ensure each book meets the high standards of production at the centre, and therefore ready to be distributed. Change Manager Eilish McDonald explains that there is a shared pride over the quality of books produced, resulting in a communal drive for perfection.
Having joined Amazon during the pandemic as a fresh graduate, Eilish has seen the centre grow and develop new processes over the last couple of years, and is never short of new projects or initiatives to manage in her role at the Luton site – including the transition to producing hardback books alongside paperbacks.
“Recently I’ve had the opportunity to step up to Operations Manager on a temporary basis, which has been amazing. There's so much progression at every level of Amazon - I've seen one of my associates fulfill his dream of going into engineering, and other managers progress rapidly in their careers. It’s my favorite thing about Amazon – you can make anything happen if you're willing to put in the work and the training!”