This year at Amazon I’m working in ICQA, which I believe stands for inventory control and quality assurance. This department is neither Inbound or Outbound, it falls under the category of Support, but has the same hours and breaks as Outbound. For last year’s run down on Stowing, click here.
Disclaimer: As always, this isn’t official information. It may not work like this at other sites. It may not work like this at this site next year, or even next week. This is just what I’ve experienced.
ICQA has it’s own home department and stand up area apart from everyone else. Once you punch in, you head there first to hear the announcements for the day, do stretches, and get your assignment.
Like with stowing, there’s a big board in the department that has different jobs written on it and everyone who works in ICQA has a little tag with their name on it. The leads will assign everyone to a job at the start of shift.
The job that all work campers are trained to do when first arriving is Simple Bin Counts, SBC. Basically you get a scanner, log into the Simple Bin Count tool, and it gives you a specific location to go count. You’ll also want to grab a little counting bag kept at ICQA home, which has things in it like bin markers (explained in a bit), paper, pen, Andon stickers (explained in a bit), box opener, and if you’re lucky – a calculator. You’ll also be using a small cart to put items on while counting, there are usually several of them located at ICQA home, try to get one with a step stool if you can so you’re not hunting around for a step stool later.
Find the bin in question, put a little pink bin magnet on it (so you don’t lose track of where you’re counting) and count the number of items in it. Check the items as you do so for visible problems like damage, separated sets, or potential theft. Enter the number of items into the scanner, and if your count matches what the computer thinks should be in that bin (you don’t get to see that number) it’ll send you to the next one – don’t forget to take your bin marker with you. If there’s a mismatch, the scanner will give you the opportunity to count again.
For a second count on a bin, remove all items from the bin and put them in your cart, make sure the bin is empty and there aren’t any little pieces hiding in the corners, then count items as you put them back. If your number still doesn’t match what the computer thinks should be in there, it’ll call the bin defective, and send you on to the next one. Note: Just because your number doesn’t match the computer’s number, doesn’t mean you counted wrong. A Stower might have stowed wrong, a Picker might have picked wrong, or an item might have simply fallen out of the bin at some point.
If you find a problem with a bin, say an item is damaged, or the divider that keeps that bin separate from another one is missing, you pull an Andon. Each kind of problem has it’s own Andon, when you bring up the Andon screen on your scanner there will be a list of them to choose from. Once you choose the correct one, you take a little Andon sticker from your bag and write the problem, date, and your initials on that sticker, then put it on the problem item or area. If it’s an item that’s the problem, move that item to the front of the bin so other people can easily see that there is a problem. A Problem Solver will be by at some point to fix the issue. You should skip that bin (don’t count it after pulling an Andon), and move on to the next one.
But what about Defective bins, where the count is off. What happens to them? Some work campers are also trained to do a second job, called Cycle Counting or Adhocs. This job counts the defective bins that are found from people doing SBC.
When you get to the bin that needs counting, instead of physically counting and entering in a number on the scanner, you pull everything out of the bin and scan it all back in using the bar codes on the product. It takes longer, and accuracy is very important. Aside from the Andons available to Simple Bin Counting, you’ll also be able to pull them for bar codes that won’t scan, multiple bar codes that will scan, when the title or description of an item on the scanner doesn’t match the actual product, and a couple other things. You should be doing a six sided check on every item you put back in the bin to look for problems.
A few random notes:
- All product locations are referred to loosely as bins, but those bins could be very small, or a row of three pallets on the ground. The calculator, pen and paper are for assistance in counting the later, which could have hundreds or even thousands of items per location.
- There are productivity goals for both SBC and Adhocs, here in Coffeyville everyone’s numbers are printed out on a report twice a day and posted in ICQA home. But in this department the accuracy goal is stressed more than the speed one. Don’t try to rush if your accuracy is going to suffer.
- This job seems less physically demanding than stowing, especially for SBC since you might not even have to pull product out of the bins to count them if you can see everything in the bin. It does require quite a bit of reaching and stooping to count top and bottom level bins though. Knee pads are available to make counting bottom bins easier.
I think that about covers it. Essentially, if you’re a work camper ICQA boils down to counting. It’s not the most exciting job, but I don’t find it any worse than Stowing was. I hope this clears up some of the confusion about what CamperForce workers assigned to ICQA do. I’m going to go and enjoy the rest of my one day off this week. Back to the grind tomorrow for another six day stretch. Have a good weekend all!
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Image courtesy of Lundgren photography