Thursday, June 24, 2004

90,000 DVDs. No shelves.

A Netflix hub reveals a rhythmic flow of DVDs, bar codes, and Band-Aids.
From: Fast Company Issue 74 September 2003, Page 38
By: Lucas Conley

There are no Nerf balls or cappuccino makers at the Worcester hub. More striking, given the hub's stock of 90,000 DVDs, there are no shelves. "I came from a traditional warehousing background," says O'Handley. "I was like, 'Okay, I want Shrek ; I'm going to go to slot S-407 . . . right?' " He smiles at his innocence. "Not so."

Instead, an ingenious daily dance takes place. Each morning at 8:00, the U.S. Postal Service (cheaper and quicker than the alternatives, incredibly) drops off "pumpkin carts," orange bins with thousands of returned DVDs from all over New England. Operators scan the discs, collecting returns data, which computers at Netflix's San Jose headquarters match to new orders. After lunch, the Worcester operators rescan every disc in their inventory; with each scan, they act on instructions from San Jose to "Ship Disc," if a customer wants the film, or "Scan Tomorrow," if not.

Regarding postage:
Presorting saves Netflix six to seven cents per DVD, O'Handley says.


  1. Becky,

    First, let me say that I too am a huge Netflix fan. I absolutely love it! My wife and I have been members for only the last couple months, but we've already burned through close to 40 films. I find your blog quite interesting.

    As for your comments on my blog, I really do appreciate them. Your advice seems hard-earned and more practical than the majority of the comments I get. Do you have experience in the industry? My "Invitation List" post was quite optimistically dreamy, but intentionally so. I like to intersperse my more technical/industry posts with fun "what if" scenarios. My readers seem to enjoy them, as they're the most heavily commented, and I get a kick out of writing them too.

    Still, every comment is appreciated, and yours are right on target. I hope to hear from you again in the near future. Thanks.


  2. My only experiences in the industry have been as a fan :). Just one of the crowd.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  3. UPS does a similar sorting process. Is net flix availible in Texas.Here Check Out My Blog

  4. How did you get the search feature to link to individual posts?

  5. To add Google searches to my blog, I went to Google Free Web search. You'll need to know how to edit your blog template.

  6. dude your kinda weird being such a freak but that was cool i guesse

  7. Leslie K. Siegel at thinks Netflix makes you lazy to return the flix, so you end up keeping it. Leslie K. Siegel wishes that her mother Lenore Siegel of Florida would forgive her for all the wrong things Leslie K. Siegel said! But Netflix really won't last, because DVD's on demand will get smaller and more home use friendly without even having to leave the mailbox.

  8. I live the Worcester, MA and have to say I get really quick turn around times (I think their hub is about 10 miles away). IMO Netflix works because traditional rentals shops need to make a profit off of late fees (and iritating the customer). I've had my three dvds for over a week and I'm still thinkling "maybe I should mail them back sometime soon." Since they moved to regional mailing centers [sometime ago] I've heard their turn around has greatly inproved.

    Netflix works and works well. Even with the recent minor price increase I see no reason to change. I wonder if they'll expand into shipping/sell other stuff? My they should stick with what they do so well.

    Netflix subscription: $23 per month.
    The joy of stuffing that red envelope in the mailbox and not driving to a video store: priceless.

    There stock is doing surprising well for these times.

  9. I use the VEC instead - similar, but free.