How’s the Path? An exploration of the chaos that happens when warehouse logistics fail

For those of my readers who know me, you may know me from my 15-year-career as a journalist, or from my volunteering or professional experience in nonprofits, or my time as a board member of Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

But my life has led many other unorthodox places— I worked my way through college at McDonalds, served as the box office manager for Moravian College Theatre Company, and did my work-study in admissions where I filled out a lot of postcards, stuffed a lot of informational folders, and rewrote department brochures. My other work-study job was in the English department photocopying things and the duplication department loved my prowess with photocopiers.

My professional career started at Lafayette College in public relations and from there I moved into weekly journalism.

Life as a print journalism made me a more efficient writer, a more captivating storyteller and a better listener. It piqued my curiosity for subjects I have no interest in, and it honed my ability to discern what information is important and understanding how different systems work.

My career as a journalist opened me to the possibilities— I’m less prone to refuse any opportunity. And my current experience at Stitch Fix is one of those opportunities.

Warehousing is a huge industry here in the Lehigh Valley. It is very easy to get just about anywhere from here from a transportation logistics standpoint. I have had an interest in Stitch Fix since they launched as the first subscription box for retail fashion.

My work as a warehouse associate there as part of “midnight society” (second shift) allows me to work on my personal projects during the day, and, when the work assignments line up to have me “picking,” exercise at night. Pickers walk about 25,000 or more steps in a shift.

Last night, management announced mandatory overtime. Every associate had 24 hours to sign up for 14 hours of overtime before Easter. This made a lot of people grumpy and/or angry as we didn’t have much time to figure out our options. I’ll be working 4 hours each Saturday and coming in 2 hours early two days a week.

So this was the backdrop as one of our overseers mentioned that some of the totes set up for our carts had been messed up. Now I don’t know if a person did it, or a computer did it, as this is the week we switched from Gozer to Star.

I don’t want to say much as I don’t know how much of Stitch Fix’s operations are proprietary. But normally each cart of eight fixes being “picked” stays in a certain size area of the warehouse. A medium batch might include medium, size 6 and size 8 and have you roaming the aisles throughout the M section.

Last night, the pickers would start in W/2 XL and have fixes on their cart that included all the sizes which meant more or less picking one fix at a time and zigzagging throughout the warehouse— which from XS to XXXL is about 900 of my steps.

By meal break, most of the bad batches had been picked, and the shift supervisor was asking if the paths had improved. I was very grateful when they had. The ones that weren’t right wasted a lot of time and were very disorienting.

In other news, our three-legged cancer survivor cat Opie has a vet appointment with a new doctor on April 1. I was unhappy with the vet practice who diagnosed his cancer, and the one vet there I liked has left the practice. The vet that actually amputated his leg is an hour away.

He has a lump growing on the back of his neck and I don’t like the look of it. So April 1, I am taking him to Canyon River Run to be checked. Canyon River is one of the vets who works with the cat rescue we foster with, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Consolidator

At Stitch Fix, Monday was a paid holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Day. But we still had to do 8-hours of mandatory overtime. So I worked 10-hour days Tuesday through Friday. And then today I worked 10-2. I’ve been experimenting to what works best for my life and my body. After those 10-hour shifts, my four-hour one passed quickly. Super quickly.

Right now I am in an Epsom salt bath, trying to get Nala to play in the water.

The wind is howling vigorously outside. Nala’s more than a little nervous. And I’m having trouble staying warm in this tub.

I’ve worn a couple of my new shirts from Dolls Kill— which the teenagers unboxed here: Teenagers unboxing Dolls Kill haul. I’ve received some compliments.

So, one interesting thing about life at the Bizzy Hizzy is that second shift (known as midnight society) tends to work where needed versus in a particular position. With a shortage of inventory, we’ve been working inbound even if we are normally outbound.

Working in this warehouse environment makes me realize I am fascinated by operating logistics. Day shift has so many people they are streamlined to factory precision. Evening shift does not have quite that automation.

Last night I worked in men’s inbound— and I have never set foot in the men’s section of the warehouse. It’s clean, uncluttered and quiet. Then for my shift I went back to women’s returns processing. Today I served as consolidator. That was collecting clothes and distributing hangers.

Now there are two schools of thought on whether cross-training benefits the worker.

1. As an employee, we are hired for a certain job and our wage or salary is set by our skill level and what we do. When an employer asks us to perform additional roles without adjusting our compensation, they are taking advantage of the employee.

2. When an employee, particular one in a low-skill arena, agrees to perform more than one function, they are proving their willingness to learn and their capacity, which allows the employer to assess their performance and capacity. This will factor into evaluations and could lead to growth within the company.

Both are valid, and both are horseshit as workers are not really valued in American culture. The United States’ system values business and profit but not so much the individual.

But learning these different roles entertains me and quells my curiosity.

And this morning before work I treated myself to a breakfast at Wendy’s because I really like their seasoned potatoes. And I tried the Breakfast Baconator. I wanted it to be a hamburger. See my review here: Review of the Breakfast Baconator

And after work I stopped to see Mars and Vesta at Petco: Mars and Vesta

Meanwhile at home, Minerva turned a corner: Cuddly Minerva

Final days of mandatory overtime

I have not had much time of late, working 10 hour days and trying to do the items the teenagers need to keep the house running in my absence. I have no fewer than six or so random topics saved as potential blog entries but so far… no time to sit and write.

Teenager #1 fed the cats this morning and made my coffee. Nala is screaming for attention and her breakfast.

At our weekly meeting on Wednesday— the powers that be told us that 75% of the inventory in our warehouse was already styled out by the Stitch Fix stylists. Our mandatory overtime is being used to restock our inventory so we can keep sending fixes to our clients.

Wednesday was the day I ended up doing two hours binning on the “rack project.” We are increasing the capacity of the warehouse by moving from a single tier to a double tier system.

Then I did an eight-hour shift in inbound processing, where I spent the first 90 minutes finishing the hanging of day shift’s work and the rest of the night hanging and tagging three sizes of Just USA black skinny jeans (9” rise if you are interested).

Last night I did all ten hours in women’s returns processing which was fun in multiple capacities.

  1. It didn’t involve folding.
  2. I got to slice open packages.
  3. I saw what people decided to keep and what they sent back.
  4. I studied the differences between day shift and my shift and how the warehouse functions as an assembly line when at peak staffing. Fascinating.

Who knew logistics could be so fun?