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Report260
Brentano Shipping & Receiving Departments

10.01.2012

Welcome back to Report 260, your inside source for getting to know the people and departments that make up the Brentano family. You’ve met the Customer Service Team, and now it’s time for something really exotic: the warehouse. Among rows and rows of fabric are two cutting stations, and unless they’re roaming the aisles, that’s where Andy and Ricky can usually be found. They’re also neck-deep (sometimes literally) in receiving—Ming’s domain.

I interrupted Andy and Ricky for a quick interview before snagging some time with Ming.

Photo of Andy Ricky and Ming in Brentanos warehouse


Andy & Ricky

Q: How long have you guys been at Brentano?
Ricky: Oh, man, it’s been four years.
Andy: One … one and a half years.
   
Q: Can you take me through your typical day?
Ricky: First, we see what kind of orders we have, like what needs to get sent overnight. Customer Service will put the urgent ones on top so we know what needs to go first. Then we pick a few orders and start putting the rolls onto these carts to bring them back to measure.
   
Q: How many rolls of fabric can you fit onto a cart?
Ricky: It depends, sometimes they’re big rolls and sometimes they’re small rolls. Maybe ten.
   
Q: You mean it’s not a competition to see how many you can fit?
Andy: We don’t compete. We work together. Like a team. (Andy interlocks his hands in some complicated gesture to represent teamwork.)
 
Q: If you’re both working on orders, how does it not turn into bumper-carts?
Andy: There’s a code on the packing list that shows each fabric’s location in the warehouse. Ricky gets the beginning of the alphabet, and I get the end.
   
Q: So, back at your cutting station, what kinds of tools do you use?
Ricky: The most important thing is skissors. Scissors. They get dull really fast, but we sharpen them every two or three weeks. And, humm … (He starts opening drawers.) … I’ve got a saw.
   
Q: What’s that for?
Ricky: Some fabrics like Sputnik have a short width, so we cut down the cardboard rolls before we measure out the yardage and re-roll them.
 
Q: And then there’s this rolling machine. How does this work?
Ricky: We put the original bolt on one side of the table and the new, empty roll on the other. Then, when it starts winding, the counter will measure out the yards for us.
Andy: The Fabric Master Re-Roller.
Ricky: The what?
Andy: That’s the name of the counter. Right there. (Andy points to a label that Ricky can’t see.)
Ricky: Oh, I thought that was my name.
   
Q: What’s the trickiest fabric to work with?
Ricky: Ballroom. Velvets need a lot of TLC. It takes two people to measure them because the meter isn’t accurate, and we have to use a string. You also have to slow down the machine; otherwise they start snow coning.
    Photo of Brentano Fabrics warehouse tools
Q: Snow coning—is that a technical term?
Ricky: No, it’s ours. We’re going to copyright it.
   
Q: Do you have a favorite fabric?
Andy: Poly’s. They’re so easy to roll; it just takes a second.
   
Q: What about a fabric that you like for the pattern, color, etc.?
Ricky: I like Indochine a lot.
Andy: Yeah, that’s a cool one.
Ricky: I like how it shimmers.
Andy: Garden Party’s cool too.
   
Q: Even though it’s a velvet?
Andy: It’s not too bad for a velvet; it rolls a lot easier than the others.
   
Q: Do you just ship orders, or do you also help with receiving?
Andy: We share receiving with Mr. Ming. We pretty much average one freight shipment a day; it could be as big as a couple hundred pieces or as small as one or two. We take those off the truck with the fork lift, then Mr. Ming checks them into the system. When they’re checked in, me and Ricky will tag them and put them on the shelves.
   
Andy: And then UPS and FedEx are here everyday, twice a day, delivering packages. Those get distributed to the studio or customer service.
   
Q: Do you ever interact with our reps or clients?
Andy: Not really. Some calls about tracking numbers have gotten transferred back here, but it’s better for them to go through Customer Service.
Ricky: If the reps don’t know who we are, that means we’re doing a good job.



Ming

Q: First of all, the guys always call you “Mr. Ming” even though “Ming” is your first name. When did they start adding the title?
Ming: From the very beginning, nine years ago next month, some people started calling me that. I don’t mind; I hope it’s a sign of respect. Usually I’m “Mr. Uh-oh” because people say, “Uh-oh!” when they see me. I’m a nice guy, but people don’t like to see me coming because it means there was a mistake.
     
Q: Oh? What kinds of mistakes do you catch?
Ming: With orders, a common problem is shipping to the wrong address. That kind of thing we have to catch before we ship out the fabric. Also—yardage, fabrics, payment information. If the order’s wrong, I stop the shipment and ask the guys to recut the fabric. Then I’ll adjust the inventory because that has changed too.
    Photo of Brentano Fabrics Inventory
Q: Really, the whole inventory is in your control. What do you do to prevent mistakes from happening?
Ming: It all starts with receiving; everything needs to be right from the first step. If we make a mistake, then it creates a really bad situation for everyone who comes after.

When we get new fabrics, I cut a piece from each roll and match it to current stock. I always do a physical check. I check for pattern, color, backing. Any one could be wrong. Then I tag the new rolls and have Agnes put the numbers into the system.

  Whenever I have time, when things are on track, I check every roll in the warehouse to make sure it’s right. If a roll doesn’t feel like it has four yards, but it’s supposed to, I measure. (Ming fans through a ream of notes.) I try to make a complete inventory three times a year. That’s the real inventory. The other is just spot-checking and fixing.
   
Q: What else falls into your job description?
Ming: CFA’s, for one thing. I get the request from Customer Service, cut the sample, put it into the envelope, stamp it, put it in the mailbox, everything. At night I do a final check, unplugging everything, making sure all doors, all window are locked, and that there’s no water running and that nobody’s hiding. I’m the sometimes janitor too. I sometimes take out garbage, recycling, and collect old pallets for reuse. I’ve even helped clean the floors.


Well, there you have it—the inside scoop about how fabrics move through the Brentano warehouse. Efficient, practical, and always entertaining, these guys are the alpha and omega, the first and the last ones to touch the fabric. Try giving them a pat on the back, though, and they’re likely to shrug it off. However, it’s definitely worth a try.

What’s next for Report 260? Design studio? Operations? You’ll have to keep checking back to find out.












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