Preparing for Peak
Peak readiness relies on the entire organization being prepared for every scenario imaginable.
Many companies have just finished their back to school peak and are taking a deep breath before bearing down even more for the holiday peak. The explosion of ecommerce isn’t slowing and more delivery methods mean further crunches on the supply chain. No retailer is immune to peak; here are some hard lessons learned that every company should take to heart as we approach the holiday peak season. Preparing for peak isn’t just within the warehouse, but relies on the entire organization being prepared for every scenario imaginable.
Seriously. You probably already had at least a dozen planning meetings looking at last year’s challenges, meeting with the buyers, sourcing, and identifying the worst-case scenarios. Ben Franklin is credited with saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” With ecommerce sales projected to grow to $4.9 trillion by 2021, there is no sign of this slowing down. Making sure every last detail is covered can save money during peak when all efforts are made to get orders out the door. Have you communicated forecasts to your carriers? Do you need to alter cut times? Are your systems scaled to handle peak volumes?
Data, Data, Data
The answers lie in the data. The interpretation of those answers might cause some debate, but it is important to make analytical-based decisions. Every DTC company should start diving deep into the data available. Metrics like average items per order, SKU velocity, average order dwell time, and cost per package should not be guesses or up for debate. There should be a dashboard or daily sheet that goes out to a massive distribution list. Your KPIs should be known by every member of every team and treated as sacrosanct. It is every person’s goal to look at those numbers and ask questions: “How can we utilize existing rack storage better to meet the high mover demand?” “Can we create a consolidation P&D location to pick from pallet during peak rather than using the conveyor system?” “What distribution hubs for Zone Skipping are we utilizing?", "When was the last time we looked at our shipping data?”
Communicate internally and externally
You think IT needs to know what changes aren’t needed already? IT freeze for all new patches and the teams need to be focused on 24/7 uptime to make sure all systems are running. Marketing communications need to be transmitted down to operations. If Operations isn’t in sync with Marketing then they can’t adequately prepare within the four walls of the warehouse. This is the time when everyone gets on board or you can just start the finger pointing when orders don’t get fulfilled and orders are delivered late. If you are drop shipping from vendors or manufacturing plants, you need to make sure they are prepared for volumes. At the end of the day the customer doesn’t see that your vendor’s system couldn’t handle the influx of orders, all they see is your poor customer service.
Ramp up hiring
In most locations the biggest topic of conversation is labor shortage. It is already time to recruit and train new warehouse employees. Offering flexible hours and different shifts is a great way to keep the labor pool high and decrease eventual burnout for new employees. By breaking up a long peak shift into a couple part-time employees you might have more to staff to manage, but you gain in keeping the line running. Having simple processes, easy to use systems, and clear instructions will boost your order accuracy and your managers can do what they need to do and not be chasing down mistakes. Keep it simple and listen to your employees, things look a lot different from the floor and small changes can mean a lot to someone when it makes their lives easier (which translates to higher productivity).
Time to rethink storage
Inside the four walls of a warehouse the space is finite, but the way your company can utilize that is up to you. Implementing a WES system or upgrading your WMS can save space by intelligently racking SKUs in proper locations. By keeping slower mover SKUs out of the way and mixing high moving SKUs in different forward pick locations you can eliminate congestion in narrow aisles. Utilizing algorithms in your PTMS can operate in the same manner. Integrate your PTMS into your WMS and create consolidation events that group orders that can go LTL and put into mailbags or pallets. This way you can save the precious dock door space and keep packages moving out in bulk rather than singles.
Get all your partners on board. At the very least look to make sure your support contracts are up to date. Reach out to each of your vendors and suppliers to set up a meeting to line up support resources needed for peak. Get the numbers and names of people that will be answering the 3am phone call when something goes wrong. Each minute the line isn’t moving means orders not being fulfilled, millions in appeasements, and dollars wasted. Paying for resources to be available isn’t an extravagance, but prudent planning.
Every peak season has its own set of problems, many you can’t anticipate, and being prepared as best you can will help solve those problems if/when they arise. Proper planning, communication, and teamwork will go a long way to make small problems stay small.
At ScanData we have World Class Support – arguably the best in the industry – with dedicated engineers on call to answer the phone when that problem occurs. We pride ourselves that we don’t hang up after diagnosis, but stay on the phone to help your staff work the problem with your vendors.
We realize this piece is very high-level, and if you’d like to drill down on any of our recommendations, reach out to us with questions or comments. We also welcome opportunities to deliberate or dispute our insights and recommendations. No conversation is off limits; you are an expert and we'd love to speak with you.
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