Another bit about Netflix's corporate practices, this time in their DVD shipping warehouses. I find myself fascinated by how Netflix does business. Earlier, we go to see how life is for Netflix's exempt associates, this article shows us what it is like for hourly associates, who were only mentioned briefly in the Netflix Culture Presentation. I like to note the similarities and differences between Netflix and my employer. We both call employees associates, and we both have mandatory exercises on the production floor, yet Netflix ships 60,000 discs a day, whereas we would be lucky to ship 60 items a day.

Netflix has some really amazing industrial/process engineers or equivalents working for them. The efficiency of their shipping operation is astonishing. I have to admit I find it even a little inhuman. I'm not criticizing them, just commenting that my experience as a process engineer has shown me that you often need to do things like keeping employees from talking to each other during work tasks if you really want to get things done quickly and efficiently. This is often what gets that last little bit of performance out of a process, complete focus of the person involved. However, having trained on the assembly line myself, I know this is less fun.

Sometimes this is the difference between similar lines in different buildings. Once you see both in operation, you can immediately tell the difference. A really interesting question for Netflix's process gurus: now what? There is very little to be done to make their shipping process more efficient. The Law of Diminishing Returns tells us that an equivalent amount of effort will not pay off, so they need to think up something entirely different to see benefits. This is perhaps why they are working on their streaming video services, in order to make this paragon of efficiency obsolete. They have a long way to go, however. Not only are there relatively few titles streaming yet, but also you miss some features that are now standard on DVDs. I would stream anime, but you can only stream the dubbed versions. What the hell is that Netflix? In my wildest fantasies, I would like to see Netflix partner with anime production companies and those production companies arch-nemeses, the fansubbers. Fansubbers can record a Japanese TV show, encode it, translate it, and distribute it all over the world in less than a week after it first airs, for free. Why not pay these people to ply their trade for Netflix, and then everyone could make money on the process?

h/t James Drake