OLEAN, NY -- For Justus Elliot, time and pace are essential. As a warehouse selector for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op, most of the 21-year-old’s job calls for efficiency.
“Everything is time-based," Elliot explained. "One hundred percent is the norm, and it’s what we work for every day. If our score is less, then we are moving too slow, and we kick it into gear. “
Elliot works from 1:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., and is tasked with completing orders and moving the merchandise onto crates to be delivered in the morning. Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op sells wholesale groceries to privately owned stores including the Olean area Park & Shop Service Stores and Ried’s Food Barn and the Buffalo area Dash’s Market locations.
All co-op employees wear headsets during their shifts, so they hear directly each item needed for an order. Every task is assigned an average completion time to keep employees on pace throughout their shifts.
Orders also are printed out, but for each order Elliot’s headset tells him where to go. And when he gets to a correct spot, a pair of numbers visible on the microphone on his headset confirm the item.
“Just like when you go to Walmart and see the bar codes, I am looking for two certain numbers on that code to make sure I have the correct item. We call that check-digit,” Elliot explained. “One hundred percent would be the time expected for that order. It is basically just an efficiency formula.”
Produce, dairy, meat and frozen are the four different departments Elliot works in. The produce is stored at approximately 32 degrees, making it the “warmest” of all the departments. The freezer is set around zero.
“We are provided with freezer suits, bibs, vests and a coat. I dress warm but the stuff they supply us with do a nice job,” Elliot said.
Elliot and his co-workers work under an incentive program. They are paid until 12:30 a.m. no matter what. And that means that if they work efficiently and complete all of their orders for the night by 9 p.m., they can go home having earned full pay for the shift.
“I like the incentive because it keeps everyone moving. Everyone has to work as a team if we want to go home early,” Elliot said.
“We are given three breaks. The last one is a 15-minute break at 10 p.m. but we never take that one if it looks like we can get out early,” he added.
A native of Portville, Elliot has worked at Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op for two years. He has been accepted by Jamestown Community College and will begin taking classes as a business major in January.
“I like my job because it’s not dull. But it’s not what I want to do my whole life. I’m not sure what I want to do with a business degree yet, but I see this as my best opportunity,” Elliot said.
Elliot, who plans to try out for the golf team at JCC, recently became certified by Uber to make some money on the side.