On a typical day in the middle of July or August, ASR Supervisor Isaac Stroupe and his team will process up to 28,000 textbooks. And that’s just their shift; the count for the entire day is closer to 45,000. Speed is essential, because within 24 hours of being ordered, each box of course materials must be on its way out the door, to destinations all over the world.
Stroupe, like many of his team members, is a long-time veteran of rush. After 14 years with MBS Direct, and about a year and a half in his current position, he’s no stranger to the bustle of back-to-school ordering.
“Last week our group did a quarter of a million books,” he said. “We’ll keep this pace up for about six weeks, so it helps to remember that there is an end in sight.”
The process begins with the night shift, who will pull all orders placed after 12:30 p.m. the day before. This is typically 4-5 “waves” worth of books, with each wave consisting of about 200 orders and 2,500 books. That way, when the day shift arrives at 7 a.m., they can jump right in without having to wait for more books to be picked. After being pulled, the books travel by tote to the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASR), which has the capacity to store up to 1.6 million books. After Stroupe and his team arrive, they’ll divide the contents of the totes down into specific orders, carefully pack them and send them on to shipping.
“Any order placed by 12:30 p.m. has to be out the door by 7 p.m.,” Stroupe said. “We’re typically done by 3 p.m., but the night shift will sometimes have to finish part of a wave.”
During the course of a rush period shift, Stroupe’s team processes about 3,000 orders. To handle the increased volume, about 15 -20 additional employees are hired at the beginning of the summer. Some of these temporary staffers will find a more permanent position once things slow down; others are college students earning some extra cash between semesters.
Even though Stroupe's team is just one part of the overall process, they are a crucial one. Because of their dedication and hard work — especially during the back-to-school rush — less than one percent of students will start classes without their books.