Andrew Burke

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With a Good Search You Can Be Organized
Posted on: 2007-01-18

From Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog comes the story of a large online shoe retailer that doesn't organize its warehouse!:

http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/01/everything_is_m.html

Sure, Zappos experimented with various taxonomies and organizational systems, but none of them scaled. New shoes came in and old shoes went out, seasons changed and so did styles. When a vendor creates a new line, you can't just shift everything down to make room for it next to the old line. When a line is discontinued there's no way to pull everything up to fill in the space. Short of reorganizing the entire warehouse with every twitch of the marketplace, no ordered system was better than any other at accommodating change.

So Zappos just stopped bothering. It made peace with messiness. The shoes are logged in by UPC when they arrive and assigned a spot wherever there is room available. When it comes time to pick-and-pack, the computers tell the warehouse staff where to go. No single trip is optimized, but the system as a whole works as a minimum-effort machine.

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