Employees and leadership from the Dot Foods Mt. Sterling warehouse sat down with our Facebook audience in June to chat about what it’s like to work at our Mt. Sterling distribution center (DC). They covered topics ranging from schedules to pay to what the job is like to how to get hired.

Want to watch the recorded version of the Facebook Live? Click here.

The Panelists

David Koch, Director of Dry Warehouse

David was born and raised in Mt. Sterling and started working at the Mt. Sterling DC when he was 16. He started out at the IT Help Desk before moving into the frozen warehouse as a material handler for four years while he was in college. He has been full-time at Dot for seven years now and has experience on the process improvement team, warehouse team, Dot Transportation, Inc. (DTI), and now is back in the warehouse as the director of the dry warehouse. 

Artemio Cortez, Dry Warehouse Trainer, Spanish New Hire Orientation Instructor

Artemio started in the Mt. Sterling warehouse as a warehouse material handler. Over the past seven years, he has worked his way up to be a warehouse trainer in the dry warehouse and also an instructor for new hire warehouse orientation. 

Jessica Lopez, Dry Warehouse Lead

Jessica has been at Dot Foods for 17 years. After finishing high school, Jessica decided she wanted to come work for Dot for “just a little while” while she figured out what her next steps were. Now, she’s planning on retiring from Dot! She started out as a warehouse material handler in the frozen warehouse on night shift. Today, she is a warehouse lead in the dry warehouse on day shift.

Facebook Live Questions Answered

Why am I seeing so much about how Dot Foods is hiring? Why are you hiring so much? What’s the deal?

“Coming off the pandemic, we had a huge dip in volume from all the restaurant shutdowns,” said David. “Food away from home took a drastic hit, but now it has significantly rebounded and our volume is up HUGE compared to what it was over last year. We are shipping almost 1.3 million cases more each week as an entire company than we were last June. That’s a huge amount of volume that we have to rapidly staff for.”

“Every industry is experiencing labor struggles right now—there’s a nation-wide labor shortage,” explained David. “So that’s why you’re seeing so much that Dot Foods is hiring.” 

You can read more about why we’re hiring here.

What does a material handler do? What is the job like? If I apply, what will I do all day?

As a warehouse material handler at Dot Foods, you will:

  • Build orders on a pallet
  • Drive a forklift at all times—you’re never on foot
  • Use a tablet to tell you where to go in the warehouse to pick product, how much of that product you should pick, and what type of pallet you’re going to use
  • Bring completed pallets to the loading dock

But that’s not all! At Dot, we train our material handlers on the picking job first, which is what is outlined above. But we have many other tasks and duties that we train employees to do. We don’t want you to be picking cases every day of the week, so we set you up in a job rotation. During the early stages of training, we usually train new employees on a second task to help provide variety right out of the gate. 

You can read more about what it’s like to be a warehouse material handler here

You talk about pay being good—but how much does a warehouse material handler actually make?

At Dot Foods Mt. Sterling, we offer a wide range of options when it comes to schedule and warehouse environment. All of those factors influence the potential pay range of a warehouse material handler. 

“The freezer would be considered a more tough work environment than the dry warehouse or the cooler,” explained David. “So we have differentials in place to account for the different job types. We have night shift differentials, temperature differentials, and weekend differentials, so that’s where you get that variance in pay.” 

All employees start out somewhere between $17.20 and $23.35 per hour. Then, you will get an automatic raise at six months and have potential for another raise after one year. 

“We work to rapidly progress you up that scale,” said David.

To learn more about pay in the Dot Foods warehouse, click here.

The lifting requirements seem like a lot. How heavy are the cases? Can I actually do the job?

While the maximum pick weight for a regular material handler is 60 pounds, the average case weight throughout the entire warehouse is only 12-13 pounds! But, if you’re feeling wary of the weight requirement, we encourage you to check out the light-pick zone! The light-pick zone has a maximum case weight of 35 pounds. 

“When I started 17 years ago, there were only a handful of women [working in the warehouse],” said Jessica. “It was a lot more intimidating, it wasn’t as female-friendly; it was more of a ‘man’s world.’ But now we do have 168 female employees—many of whom started out in the light-pick zone and worked their way into the rest of the warehouse.”

Interested in working in the light-pick zone? Learn more here.

Do I need experience to work in the Dot warehouse?

Long story, short: No! 

“If you have never had warehouse experience or have never thrown cases for a living, none of us started out doing that either,” said Jessica.

“We see anybody ranging from someone with no warehouse experience to extensive experience,” explained Artemio. “I’m actually training an employee that did not have experience even driving a vehicle. But we’ll give you all the tools you need to be successful at Dot Foods.”

What are the benefits like at Dot Foods?

You can view a comprehensive list of the physical, mental, and financial health benefits Dot Foods offers employees here. But here’s what David, Artemio, and Jessica have to say about Dot’s benefits:

David

“I have a young family—three children. The benefits make it so I have no concerns about whether or not I am going to have the coverage I need. I like having that security. I like the Health Savings Account (HSA) program and the option to put money away that you may or may not need.”

Artemio

“I like the flexible scheduling and the option to trade shifts instead of calling in sick or using personal time off. Your manager will also work with you to try to make sure you can be home for the things that matter.” 

Jessica

“Going off of Artemio, we have the Give Me Five program. If you know about a schedule conflict at least five days in advance, you can work with your manager to work two half shifts to make room for the important things going on at home.”

“But my favorite part of Dot’s benefits is the retirement plan. Just knowing I’ve got that money put away and all that Dot contributes—the stability. In the last 61 years, Dot has never had a layoff. Knowing I will have a job every single day—you can’t beat that.”

If I start on one shift, can I switch schedules? How long do I have to wait to do that?

“We post bids all the time for different shifts and temps,” said Jessica. “We just post them up for whoever to sign up, so you don’t have to be on a certain schedule forever.” 

“We are looking at what needs we have in order to have the best flow for the shift,” explained David. “For example, we’ll post that we need five people to move to Sunday through Wednesday days. Then, everyone in the warehouse is eligible to sign up for those shifts. We then make the decision based on years of service.” 

Any schedule we have posted externally is also open for internal movement. 

Outside of the Warehouse department, there is also a job board where warehouse leadership posts every open job in Dot Foods so warehouse employees have visibility to all jobs that are available across the company, as well as potential career opportunities they may want to pursue. 

“We’ve had an employee from the warehouse transfer into basically every Dot department across the company,” shared David.

How long does it take to get hired?

“We’re working really hard to cut down the time from when you submit an application to the day you start,” said David. “We just implemented on-the-spot conditional job offers. So if you come to a hiring event, you can leave with a conditional offer that is contingent on a handful of things. We’ve had people come in on a Wednesday and their start date is on Monday. So that new turnaround time is awesome for us and the candidate experience.”

What about overtime? Does that happen a lot?

Having overtime is never our goal. But due to staffing constraints, we are mandating more overtime right now than usual. Usually, we hang out around five percent overtime, which is enough overtime for the individuals who want to volunteer for it. After those folks sign up, we will only mandate overtime if we need more shifts covered. 

“Right now, we’re in a hiring crunch,” said David. “You can’t pass any business and not see a ‘now hiring’ sign. We’re no different and we’re working a lot more overtime than we want right now.” 

“We’re aware of that and it is part of the reason we have such a big push to get the high-quality employees we need to relieve that overtime.”

“Overtime right now looks like an extra shift per week on your schedule,” explained David. “So, if you usually work four 10-hour shifts per week, you’re working five shifts. If you’re usually on three 12-hours shifts, you’re working four.”

“Right now, the most someone would be working is five days a week, so they still get two days off,” said David.

How hard is it to get hired? I know people who have applied and haven’t gotten hired.

“When I applied 17 years ago, I didn’t get hired the first time around,” said Jessica. “I didn’t get discouraged and I applied again.” 

“If it’s the right fit for you, you’ll get hired,” Jessica shared. 

“It’s not abnormal to not get hired the first time,” said David. “We’re not perfect in our hiring process. There are certain times we said “no” and we should have said “yes,” and probably some times when we said “yes” and should have said “no.””

Do you rehire former employees?

We do hire former employees. They have to go through the same process as a first-time hire. If you’re a former employee and you’re interested in coming back, apply and we’ll push you through the regular new-hire process. 

What’s the best part about working at Dot?

Artemio

“Coming in and doing what I do best. I am a very people-oriented person and I love helping people be successful. So, as a trainer, I love helping people get from point A to point Z. That’s the best part of my position right now.”

Jessica

“I do a lot of coaching and listening. I like being around a lot of people. Also, the family atmosphere. It’s a big company, a big warehouse. There’s over 900 employees and you don’t feel like another number.”

David

“I grew up here and so I love this area and this community. For me, the opportunities Dot provides in this setting is my favorite part of working for Dot. When I talk about opportunity, I mean how innovative Dot is. We’re always trying to find something we can do differently. I get excited in my young career thinking about what we’re going to be doing down the road that we haven’t even thought about yet.”

What attributes will the right candidate have to be successful in the Dot warehouse?

“You don’t need past experience to be successful here,” said Artemio. “In terms of doing the job, you have to do a physical abilities test (PAT) beforehand to make sure you can safely do the job. I’ve trained many people who have never worked out or lifted weights before who are still successful at this job. Your body will still have to adjust to the intensity of the job, but anything is possible!”

One thing all three panelists said you should have to be successful at Dot: The desire to learn and not being afraid to ask questions.

“Raise your hand. Don’t hesitate to ask about something you’re struggling with,” said Artemio. “During new hire training, we throw a lot of information at you. If you feel like you’re not comprehending something, don’t be afraid to ask us to go over it again so you can get the proper training.”

I heard you recently did a pay increase. Is that right?

“This year is not a normal year in about every sense of it. But we did do a pay increase mid-year,” said David. “Each year we do a market assessment for where our job stands in regards to pay compared to the industry and our competitors. We always try to stack ourselves up to be in the top ranges of each market.”

“This year, with such a high demand for employees in almost every industry, we felt it was necessary to do a market assessment in the middle of the year. We found we were falling behind a bit in comparison to our competitors in Mt. Sterling, so we decided to do a $1 per hour raise for our warehouse material handlers.”

Do you guys actually make food?

“We do not make food,” said Jessica. “Mainly, we just pick orders of pre-packaged food that’s already in boxes. We pick the cases and send them out the door to our customers.”

“We are a food redistributor and our customers are food distributors, such as Sysco, US Foods, etc,” said David. “We buy food from suppliers in full truckload quantities, and then we ship food out to our customers in less-than-truckload quantities.”

You can learn more about what Dot Foods does here.

Earn More in the Dot Foods Warehouse

Get stable hours. Bring home predictable paychecks. Plus, bonus opportunities, vacation time, paid holidays, 401(k) match, and more.

What it’s Like in the Dot Foods Warehouse

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in the Dot warehouse? Not sure exactly what “warehouse material handler” means? We lay it all out for you here.