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The Secret Insider Guide to the Netflix Delivery Service

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Just about every business improvement consultant has referenced Netflix in a conversation. But how does their delivery system really work? Here’s an inside scoop.

Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Borrelli explains:

After a period of pretty-pleasing Netflix to let me poke around its clandestine Chicago-area hub, and see what wonders await and how its ubiquitous red-enveloped packages are processed, I was given an address and a time to arrive and asked not to blab about it. There are 58 Netflix warehouses nationwide, serving 10.6 million subscribers, and only one for greater Chicago; it opened in 2003, Netflix’s 19th warehouse. To get there, I was told to go to Carol Stream, to be there around sunrise. I imagined it was like coming upon Narnia — one stares at it awhile until the entrance becomes evident, which turned out to be sort of true.

Business Process Improvement - Netflix Envelope

© Flickr user Mr.Thomas

We’ve raved about the employee engagement and culture at Netflix before. But two quotes from Borrelli’s piece stand out:

Forty-two people work here, nearly every one in a red Netflix T-shirt, nearly every one in constant motion. Indeed, I was asked not to disturb their groove and hit them up with questions.

Even though a warehouse job might not take a great deal of intellectual skill, Netflix still recognizes the business process advantage of constant motion without interruptions (aka flow).

The writer continues:

To a casual observer, this all seems to happen in a single motion, a flurry of fingers. Employees are expected to perform this a minimum of 650 times an hour. Also, customers stuff things into the envelopes. Scribbled movie reviews, complaints, pictures of dogs and kids. That needs sorting too. After 65 minutes of inspection, a bell rings. Everyone stands up.

Calisthenics!

While strict expectations of work-performed-per-hour may seem a little controlling, Netflix also recognizes the importance of measuring results. And part of maximizing results means keeping people limber and fresh. Hence the recurring exercise routine.

Your own business is probably not a competitor to Netflix. You may not have a warehouse or much work that is highly repetitive, such as sorting and analyzing DVDs.

But it’s probably true that interruptions impact your success. It’s probably true that if you are constantly in motion (mentally or physically) you feel a greater sense of progress.

And it’s probably true that you should get up once in a while and exercise.

That’s a lesson you don’t need to rent a film to take to heart.

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