It’s October, which means it’s almost too late to get your warehouse ready for the holiday rush, but not quite! We may be in the midst of a pandemic and dealing with continued labor shortages, but nobody can stop the oncoming rush. As eCommerce sales continue to grow and warehouses everywhere start gearing up for the busiest time of the year, what can you do to stay ahead of the madness? Here’s what we suggest.
Make a plan
Yes, this seems obvious, and yet you’d be surprised how easy it can be to forego planning entirely and jump right into reaction mode. You want your warehouse to be ready for the holiday rush, not drowning in its wake. Though it shouldn’t be your only guiding tool, using data from previous holiday seasons can go a long way in helping you prepare for peak shopping season. With the right data, you can predict when volume will peak and how far shipping activity will climb above baseline levels. You’ll want to pay special attention to:
- Seasonal order cycles: Once you understand how the order cycle changes across your inventory, you can set appropriate reorder points ahead of the holiday season.
- Order profile changes: With a little forethought, you can anticipate the coming change in order profiles, which will help guide staffing levels, reduce lead time, and may even allow you to consolidate less-than-truckload shipments.
- Last year’s lessons: Take time to understand what went wrong last year to avoid making those same mistakes again.
Change your layout
With the influx of new inventory for the holiday rush, you’ll likely need to move things around to make more space, or to make the more popular items more readily accessible. You may want to consider bringing in some extra storage containers or adding extra shelves to help with the overload. If you do move items around, be sure to include signage and to have regular updates with your floor staff so they are aware of all the changes. As always, open and clear communication with your staff is a must.
Yet another obvious suggestion, but it bears mentioning. It’s important that your warehouse and corporate are on the same page so everybody knows which products are expected to sell out, and which ones are expected to slow down. Be sure to have open lines of communication early on so nobody is caught off guard. An empty warehouse is the last thing you want during peak shopping season; that’s the goal for after the rush. Working together and communicating effectively will get you through almost any hurdle. Of course, communication goes hand in hand with inventory management.
Control your inventory
There are many goals for a distribution center or warehouse during the holiday season, but they mostly boil down to having the needed amount of inventory on hand at the right time, and that takes coordination. One way to master inventory issues is to invest in technology, like a warehouse management system. Having a warehouse management system provides much-needed transparency into inventory, greatly eliminating the risk of something falling through the cracks.
If you don’t have a warehouse management system (or even a basic inventory system) in place right now, do not make the switch today, it’s too big of an undertaking to take right before the busiest time of year. Wait until you’re done with returns, and then consider making an investment in the right system for you. There are lots of options out there, but we can help you make the right decisions; reach out and let’s get the ball rolling.
Hire as needed
Hiring seasonal workers is almost mandatory during the holiday season. While encouraging current workers to take on overtime is also a possibility, it’s not really feasible considering the high cost that entails. Instead, consider hiring seasonal workers right now so you have enough time to complete the hiring process, thoroughly train, and guide the newest additions to your team. The more employees you have in your warehouse, the faster you’ll be able to process inventory and get it out to your customers. Plus, with a larger workforce, you’ll put less strain on your current employees, which leads to better morale and a more productive and efficient team.
One crucial part of the process here is training. You want to be sure not only to fully train new hires so that they can do their best, but to also provide training to current employees as a refresher. Remember, the amount of time and money spent to train new and current employees is far less than the amount you would need to spend trying to buy back unhappy customers with apology gift cards and free shipping.
Perform ongoing maintenance
This tip applies all year round, but is especially important before sales start going through the roof: take care of your warehouse. If there are wonky shelves, loose wheels, damaged conveyors, or a glitching bit of software, fix it now. We can all but guarantee that whatever you decide to ignore during the year will blow up in your face at the worst possible time. Take it one step further and train your staff to notice faulty equipment or storage units early on. Getting a jump on repairs won’t only help your bottom line, but keep you compliant as well, and that’s always good.
These are just a few of the things you can start doing to prepare your warehouse for the holiday rush. After this season, take some time to research what emerging technologies out there can help with your business moving forward. Perhaps you could use drone technology for close-range deliveries, or maybe you need a handful of AMRs in the warehouse, everybody’s needs are different. As automation becomes more popular, it’s important to keep yourself informed on the latest.
Knowing what’s best for your distribution center isn’t always easy, and an outside perspective can go a long way in helping you make the right decision, that’s why we’re here. We’re a supply chain partner with the sole focus of helping you achieve your goals on your terms. Reach out to us today, and let us know how we can help you get more done.